Jarrett Carter, 16, saw thick, gray smoke as it tumbled two houses to Jewel Harris’ home in Newark on Wednesday morning.
Harris, 93, has Alzheimer’s disease and lives alone in the house on Eastern Parkway, her family said. Without Carter’s quick action to get Harris out of the house, her family feared she would have passed out.
“When I got downstairs, she asked me what was going on,” said the teenager, who had just started his correspondence school day, as he ran to help.
Another neighbor alerted Carter’s father, a former East Orange fire chief, to tell him about the smoke from Harris’ house before calling the fire department. Rick Carter then called his son and told him to check on Harris, both families said.
A sophomore of Arts High School, the teenager is now hailed as a hero by Harris’ daughter, son-in-law, and father. The Newark Public Safety Department also thanked him for his help.
“It was not an easy task,” said June Wright-Calhoun, Harris’ daughter. “I’m sure she said, ‘What’s going on?’ I can really praise him. “
Firefighters responded at 8:19 a.m. and got the fire under control about 20 minutes later, said Brian O’Hara, director of public safety for Newark. Harris was examined for smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire is still being investigated, he said.
“We are grateful for the support of the neighbors, including the family of East Orange Fire Captain Carter, who we learned offered assistance to the elderly victim during this incident,” said O’Hara.
Rick Carter checked a surveillance video that showed his son rushing out of the house after Harris’ dog ran up their driveway to get their attention too
“That was a proud moment for me,” Carter said of his son.
The Carters have kept an eye on Harris since moving in 2007, cutting her grass and bringing her a plate of food when they cook dinner. Harris has lived in the house for about 40 years, her family said.
Harris had just woken up when NJ Advance Media spoke to her daughter on Friday. The daughter has pulled up from her home in Maryland and is staying with her mother in a hotel while they evaluate the next steps for Harris’ life situation.
Harris’ son-in-law, a retired police officer, reached out to NJ Advance Media to praise the teenager. He felt it was important to show that young people are still doing good in their communities.
“I think he’s a hero,” said son-in-law Robert Calhoun. “When I see him, I’ll shake his hand.”
However, the 16-year-old does not see himself as a hero.
“I would have done it for anyone,” he said. “I think everyone would have done what I did. I don’t think what I did was anything special. “
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Rebecca Panico can be reached at [email protected]