Friday, July 20, 2001

Girl, 14, saves herself, brothers

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Jelena Zupan's stepfather always preached to her about the importance of knowing what to do in a house fire.

        So the 14-year-old Northside girl was ready Thursday morning when she noticed smoke filling the second-floor kitchen of her Hanfield Avenue home.

        She quickly rounded up her two younger brothers, one of them just 7 months old, and dialed 911.

[photo] Cincinnati Fire Division Capt. Kevin Campbell gets a pat of thanks from Larry Keller, holding his 7-month-old son Joseph, on Thursday. Capt. Campbell and two other firefighters, Bill Houston and Chris Turrin, rescued Joseph and Mr. Keller's fiancee's children, Jelena Zupan, 14, and Martin Zupan, 8 (in background).
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Then she led the boys to safety out the only exit that wasn't blocked by thick black smoke: an open window leading to a second-story rooftop.

        “I'm just glad everybody got out,” Jelena said after firefighters plucked her and her brothers from the roof.

        Fire officials say the fire apparently started shortly after 10 a.m. in the basement of the two-family home, although they have not determined the cause. Damage was estimated at $10,000.

        The man living downstairs was not home. Jelena's mom, Drazena, was at a doctor's appointment and her mother's fiance, Larry Keller, was at work.

        Mr. Keller said he raced home after his secretary got a call from a neighbor. “She said, "Hey, Larry, your house is on fire!'” Mr. Keller recalled. “I ran every red light on the way over here.”

        To his relief, the kids already were out of the house when he arrived.

        “I've always been a fanatic about fire safety,” Mr. Keller said. “They acted exactly as I always told them to in such a terrible circumstance.”

        None of the children was hurt in the blaze, and the family's two Dalmatians were safe in the back yard. A pet chicken was missing for about an hour, but firefighters found it hiding in the back yard.

        “After this, she'll probably never lay eggs again,” Mr. Keller said.

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