It may have been much worse had it not been for the calmness of a young 11-year-old girl who placed an important 9-1-1 call last summer.
On the afternoon of August 21, a fire broke out at the girl’s home in the 700 block of Charter Oak Street in South Pasadena.
At the time of the blaze, the home was being used as a licensed day care with six children inside.
While, Elsa Durrett’s mother, Denise, was ensuring that the children were able to exit safely, Elsa made one of the initial 9-1-1 calls “and was able to provide very accurate, detailed call information to the dispatchers,” explained South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle during a City Council meeting earlier this month.
“Now, I can tell you firsthand,” Riddle, at the podium, said to the council, “I responded to that incident minutes after the first arriving truck, which was actually Truck 31 from Pasadena. It was a very fast moving fire, already impinging on the house next door. It was a very stressful and very potentially deadly situation, and I can’t speak enough about the actions of Elsa and how calm she remained on the phone with the 9-1-1 dispatcher.”
As a first responder, Riddle knows the importance of good, accurate information during an emergency situation. “That’s is the best tool we have when arriving on scene, and Elsa provided that to us,” he recalls, praising the girl. “Her actions that day ensured not only that we mitigated it safely, but everyone was able to exit it.”
Elsa, joined by her mom, Denise, father, Brandon, and siblings Cassidy and Rex, at the council meeting, received a certificate of appreciation for her effort, on behalf of the City Council and presented by Mayor Dr. Khubesrian.
“To Elsa Durrett, City of South Pasadena resident,” said Khubesrian, reading it aloud. “In recognition of Elsa Durrett’s honorable and courageous actions on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, during a life threatening emergency. Elsa exhibited the highest standard of an exemplary member of our city by dialing 9-1-1 during a fast moving fire at her residence and calmly provided pertinent information to the dispatcher. Elsa’s actions potentially saved the lives of other individuals.”
A thunderous applause was heard inside the council chambers after Durrett accepted her award. Standing tall, firefighters lined one wall of the room, all wearing pink t-shirts in honor of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“We recognize you for your bravery and your calm actions,” the mayor told Durrett in closing. “And we recognize you as a role model and a hero for a lot of the South Pasadena community, and especially the kids.”
The mayor also thanked representatives from area fire departments for helping put out the blaze and for their attendance at the council meeting. South Pasadena Fire Department, Alhambra, Pasadena, San Marino and Los Angeles fire departments were all on scene fighting the double house fire.