Students honored for saving area chemistry teacher who caught fire

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FROST, Texas (KWTX) Three quick-thinking students who helped save their chemistry teacher when he caught fire during a science experiment, were honored by the City of Frost Monday.

Frost Police Chief Scott Sykora and Frost Mayor Scott Dowdle (far right) award plaques of heroism to Caleb Curl (left), Colton Ward (middle), and Austin Anderson (right). (Photo by Rissa Shaw)

"They don't realize how serious this could have been for the teacher, I mean, he's had second, maybe third-degree burns," said Frost Police Chief Scott Sykora. "They saved his life."

The accident happened Dec. 6, 2017, as the teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, says he was testing the dehydration of sugar by burning - which is a common experiment done in high school chemistry - in front of a class of about 15 students.

Sometime during the demonstration, something went wrong.

"I heard kids screaming," said Caleb Curl. "I look up and the teacher - the front of his shirt was on fire."

Curl, who was a senior at Frost High School at the time, was sitting in the back of the class and jumped into action as his teacher ran by him in flames (presumably on the way to the fire extinguisher which was located in the back of the room).

"I ripped (off) the back of his shirt to try to release something because he had a tie on and everything," said Curl. "At that time, his shirt fell off and the fire was out."

"There was still pieces of the shirt stuck to his arms."

As Curl was helping his teacher, Austin Anderson and Colton Ward, both juniors at Frost High at the time, also kept their cool: Anderson called 911 as Ward moved the other students out of the classroom to safety.

"We just breed good people here," said Sykora.

Only an officer at the time, Sykora thought their efforts should have been recognized then.

"But for whatever reason, it didn't happen," said Sykora. "As soon as I was voted in as the new chief on April 1, I said 'this is going to happen now.'"

In front of their families at Frost City Hall, the new chief and the new mayor, Scott Dowdle, presented Curl, Anderson, and Ward with "heroism" plaques Monday evening, and they have medals on the way.

"It may be late, but the point is they get the recognition, and I want this to be something that other people see, ya know, that our people in this town we really do care about one another," said Sykora.

Sykora, who also happens to be Ward's stepfather, says the ceremony was also about rewarding the parents for how they brought up their children in a world where bravery and kindness " are very rare now."

The teacher was hospitalized for burns but survived.

When he got out of the hospital, Curl said his teacher thanked him for what he did.

"We didn't really exchange too much about it because I don't think he wanted to think a whole lot about that scary situation," said Curl.

School district leaders said he briefly returned to Frost ISD but has since moved on to teach at another school district.

Ward and Anderson are now seniors at Frost HS.

Curl graduated and now plays football for Navarro College.

He says he's thankful for the recognition but doesn't believe it's deserved.

"I feel appreciated, and I really think that people shouldn't get awarded for the stuff that people should do in the world," said Curl.