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Central Texas girl praised for saving family as fire ravaged home

Family needs help getting new mobile home
A 10-year-old girl from Central Texas is being hailed a hero after helping rescue her family, including her little brother, as their home went up in flames.
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 4:02 PM CST
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CHILTON, Texas (KWTX) - A 10-year-old girl from Central Texas is being hailed a hero after helping rescue her family, including her little brother, as their home went up in flames.

Marely Salas, a fifth grade student at Chilton Elementary, not only helped wake up her 8-year-old brother, Fernando, but she guided him out the door putting her hand over his mouth and nose as she ushered him to safety when flames and smoke began to engulf the one-bedroom home in Chilton.

The fire broke out just before 5 a.m. on January 16 in the 100 block of County Road 4017. At the time, the girl’s father, Ezequiel Salas, was sleeping in a room with Marely and Fernando.

“I was asleep, and I started coughing a little bit,” Ezequiel recalled. “I woke up because I started hearing noises in the back of the house and when I opened the door there was smoke and fire.”

Ezequiel didn’t have much time to act. The winds were strong that morning and the flames were moving quickly. He admits he began to panic but says his daughter didn’t.

The fire broke out just before 5 a.m. Jan. 16 at 105 County Road 4017.
The fire broke out just before 5 a.m. Jan. 16 at 105 County Road 4017.(Courtesy Photo)

“She was calm,” Ezequiel said. “She was scared a little bit, but she was calm and trying to calm everyone down, like ‘don’t be scared everything will be okay.’”

Marely said she’s not sure how she was able to keep her cool in such a frantic situation. “I don’t know. I just wanted to stay calm so I wouldn’t scare my dad and my brother,” she said.

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Marely’s mother, Veronica Bautista, was staying at the home of her boyfriend, Ricky McGrath, a veteran volunteer firefighter with the Chilton Volunteer Fire Department. The woman was awakened by a call for help from an address she knew by heart.

“I heard his pager go off and the kids were with their dad for that weekend,” Veronica said. “I knew the address and I knew it was the kids’ home.”

When McGrath arrived on scene, he found what he called “the worst fire he’s seen in his 20 plus years with the department.”

The fire destroyed the family's home and ravaged a nearby mobile home.
The fire destroyed the family's home and ravaged a nearby mobile home. (Courtesy Photo)

“The house was a pile of ashes quick,” Ricky said. “I’m still amazed that they got out with no burns and safe.”

Veronica drove straight to the home and was beyond relieved to find her kids sitting outside in a truck.

She quickly learned of her daughter’s heroic acts.

“That’s just her personality, strong willed and calm,” Veronica said. “She was calming everybody.”

Marely Salas, a fifth grader at Chilton Elementary, is being hailed a hero for saving her...
Marely Salas, a fifth grader at Chilton Elementary, is being hailed a hero for saving her brother and father during fire.(Courtesy Photo)

The American Red Cross provided Ezequiel with a gift card which allowed him to stay at the Relax Inn in Marlin until Tuesday when the funds ran out.

Ezequiel said friends have offered to let him stay at their homes for a while. There is a GoFundMe but the greatest need right now is a mobile home to put on the land which has already been cleared.

“Nothing is left,” Ezequiel said.

While he lost his home and everything in it, he’s thankful they made it out with their lives, and that’s credit, he says, to his brave baby girl.

“Yes, she’s a hero, for sure,” the proud father said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, though Ezequiel thinks it could have started on the ground outside the home.

A nearby mobile home also caught fire and suffered extensive damage. The two residents in that home were able to get out safely after Ezequiel pounded on the door.

Marely's family needs help getting a new mobile home.
Marely's family needs help getting a new mobile home.(Courtesy Photo)

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