North Adams first-grader honored for heroism during fire


Photo Gallery | Alexis Benoit getting SAFE award in North Adams

NORTH ADAMS -- When Alexis Benoit heard a crackling noise in her family's kitchen last fall, she knew not to enter the room.

Peering from the doorway inside her grandmother's State Road home, the Brayton Elementary School first-grader saw flames had engulfed a pan on the stove, and she immediately insisted everyone evacuate the house.

At a school assembly on Friday, Alexis, 6, was honored for her quick thinking during the fire with a Young Hero Award from the state fire marshal's office.

When firefighters interviewed Alexis, North Adams Director of Fire Services Stephen A. Meranti said, "She told us immediately that she learned when the firefighters came to school and taught them."

Those firefighters came to the school as part of the Student Awareness of Fire Education (SAFE), a state-funded program for local fire departments. Firefighters from each department are trained to deliver fire education to students in K-12, with the aim to increase fire safety awareness and reduce the number of fire deaths.

Meranti said Alexis knew to evacuate a home immediately during a fire and, if someone were to catch on fire, to stop, drop and roll.

"She's a brave, intelligent girl who when put to the test, used the skills that she learned during a SAFE presentation to save the life of her grandmother and herself," Meranti said.

The certificate of recognition was presented by David J. Beaudin, representing State Fire Marshall Stephen Coan.

Only 291 awards have been presented since the award began in 1995, Beaudin said.

Local emergency agencies can nominate children for the award when they respond appropriately during an emergency, according to the state Department of Fire Services website.

Alexis received an award from state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, on behalf of the state House of Representatives, as well as an award from Mayor Richard J. Alcombright on behalf of the city.

She also received a medal from the Fire Department and a gift bag from North Adams MoviePlex8 General Manager Scott Ingalls.

Meranti said Alexis and five of her friends will be able to ride to the theater in the city's vintage 1941 Mack fire truck.

To reach Edward Damon:
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