Heroic U.K. 6-year-old saves family from burning home ‘just at the right time’

On the afternoon of April 4, Olivia Patterson looked up from her neighbor’s backyard in North Yorkshire, England, and saw smoke billowing from the roof of her house. The 6-year-old charged inside to wake up her mother and baby siblings.

Everyone escaped unharmed thanks to her actions.

Olivia is one brave little girl.

While on spring holiday from school, Olivia had an afternoon playdate with a friend in the neighborhood. The kids were outside in the backyard along with the friend’s mother.

Laura-Lee Patterson says her 6-year-old daughter, Olivia, is
Laura-Lee Patterson says her 6-year-old daughter, Olivia, is

Her mother, Laura-Lee Patterson, and her two younger children were in their living room. Their father (Laura-Lee’s fiancé), Jason Austin, was at work. Because their youngest child, Joel-James, 1, will only take contact naps, Laura-Lee was holding him on the couch to help him fall asleep. Then her daughter Tiffany, 2, snuggled up next to the pair for her nap. Laura-Lee’s eyes eventually drifted closed as well.

Hearing a “popping” and “cracking,” Olivia looked up from the backyard and saw the house attached to her home “engulfed in smoke and flames,” says her mother.

“She shouted, ‘Fire!’ and ran out of her friend’s garden and toward her own house,” while her friend’s mother tried to catch up and stop her, Laura-Lee tells TODAY.com. “Olivia yelled back, ‘I need to tell my mummy.’”

Rushing straight into the house, Laura-Lee says that Olivia was shouting, “‘Fire! Fire! Wake up! Wake the babies!’”

When Olivia saw her home on fire, she rushed inside to warn her mother. (Courtesy Laura-Lee Patterson)
When Olivia saw her home on fire, she rushed inside to warn her mother. (Courtesy Laura-Lee Patterson)

Olivia’s mother recalls, “I heard the panic in her voice. And as soon as I heard the panic, I smelled the burning. She dashed straight to me and she dashed straight back to the hallway, shouting, ‘Mummy’s coming!’”

Then Olivia returned to her mother’s side.

Laura-Lee already had Joel-James in her arms and was struggling to pick up Tiffany. Olivia tried to help by carrying her brother to safety. Laura-Lee laughs that Olivia wouldn’t have been able to carry Joel-James anywhere.

Laura-Lee, Olivia, Tiffany and Joel-James exited the house together while a handful of neighbors started gathering outside.

“I was so confused as to what was happening. I was in such a daze from waking up. Just as I got to the front door, my neighbor who had been watching Olivia just made it to the door. So that’s how quickly it happened,” Laura-Lee says. The neighbor took Joel-James out of her hands and shouted at her to move further away from the house.

“I just turned around and remember seeing all the smoke and the devastation. My heart dropped,” says Laura-Lee.

Laura-Lee's fiancé, Jason Austin, was at work when the blaze began.  (Courtesy Laura-Lee Patterson)
Laura-Lee's fiancé, Jason Austin, was at work when the blaze began. (Courtesy Laura-Lee Patterson)

“We just stood there looking on. I was just so devastated and worried. I just turned to look at Olivia, and I could see the adrenaline just dropped from her and she was crying her eyes out, ‘My toys! My toys! My bedroom! My bedroom!’ And it was just so devastating.” Olivia, who has ADHD, is extremely “sentimental” about her possessions.

Laura-Lee also needed some time to process what had happened, especially because it could have been so much worse.

Her 2-year-old daughter Tiffany has “a serious heart condition” and spent “the whole of 2022 in hospital on oxygen most of the time.” If it weren’t for Olivia’s quick action, her sister could have inhaled smoke, which would have been “devastating” for her. “Olivia got us out just at the right time,” Laura-Lee says.

However, she still felt the weight of the responsibility her 6-year-old had taken on to make sure they were all safe.

“I just wanted to protect her,” Laura-Lee says about Olivia in the moments after the family escaped. “I was trying to turn her away from the house. And the realization of what she had done, that she had just been in there hit her as well.”

A friend gave the family a space to sit, as well as clothes and blankets to keep them warm. Firefighters taking a break from battling the blaze stopped by to say how courageous Olivia was to go into the house. Then, the kids’ grandparents took them to their house for the night.

“Me and Jason stayed and watched the house burn,” says Laura-Lee.

Firefighters “risked their lives” going back into the house while it was still burning to try to salvage some of the family’s belongings, but almost nothing could be saved. While they watched the flames die down, Laura-Lee and Jason spotted smoke from the other side of house. When firefighters investigated, they learned that the fire had restarted.

Later on, the couple learned how the fire began. There isn’t a full fire report yet, but authorities suspect that “smoking materials,” like a lighter, matches or cigarettes, started the blaze in the attached home. The fire climbed to their roof and then spread to the Pattersons’ home.

The family of five will be staying in a vacation rental for the next four weeks, and then moving to a rented house while their home is rebuilt.

Even weeks after the fire, the kids are “unsettled,” according to Laura-Lee: “We just got Joel-James back into a kind of routine.”

Tiffany, meanwhile, is having night terrors.

“She’s frightened of clouds in the sky now because she says it’s smoke,” her mom says. They keep the blinds closed in the living room and have been trying to get her to play with toy firetrucks to lesson her anxiety.

Laura-Lee says her daughter Olivia is normally like Tigger from “Winnie the Pooh”: “She never stops jumping. She’s always talking. She’s always happy. But we haven’t seen that side to her the last couple of weeks.”

She shares that her family appreciates everyone who has reached out with donations and “kind words, which means a lot more than anything. You couldn’t put a price on that.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com