MANSFIELD, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – Selfless and extraordinary is how a Mansfield family is describing the teenage neighbor who rushed into their burning home to help their 11-year-old son escape.
Gabriel Vivoni says he was almost home from a late swim practice when he noticed an orange glow in the garage across the street.
He said he initially thought it might be someone welding, but something made him take a second look. That’s when he realized it was a fire.
“I ran to the door and I knocked on it and I was banging,” he recalled. “I was ringing the doorbell trying to get their attention. No one responded.”
He’d called 911 and hurried to get his parents. Still, the vehicle parked in the driveway worried him. Perhaps it was the lifeguard in him, but the 17-year-old says he had to make sure no one was inside. So he rushed into the burning garage.
“Most of the fire was over there, so I just ran through closest to the wall, but not too close because I know there was some fire on the wall.”
He was able to enter the home through the garage door.
“As soon as I turned the corner, I found the boy,” says Gabriel. “He looked pretty tired.”
The Lake Ridge Senior says smoked rushed into the house from the burning garage, but he and his young neighbor made it out safely.
The boy’s parents pulled up moments later, telling CBS 11, “We are forever grateful to God and Gabe.”
They say the neighborhood HOA responded quickly to offer clothes and support, as have their church family at Rush Creek Church in Arlington, but they are careful to thank God first, because they say they have no idea how the garage came to be open allowing Gabriel to spot the fire.
“Very brave” says Jeff Smith, Asst. Chief, Mansfield Fire-Rescue. “We’re glad that where most people like to bring out their cell phones and record everything, he felt compelled to act.”
As for Gabriel, he’s calling the firefighters the real heroes for keeping the fire from spreading, but that didn’t stop classmates from piling on the praise.
“It blew up like, really fast!” he shared with a quiet laugh. “A couple of friends posted it on their stories. And like all around school, everyone knew. People were saying nice things.” Even calling him a hero.
He says all of the attention makes him want to blush.