10-year-old rides to the rescue
Willow Springs boy saves lives of neighbors in house fire
By Steve Metsch
It’s been said that timing is everything. Just ask the Pelko family in Willow Springs.
If 10-year-old Michael Pelko III had not decided to take a bicycle ride on the evening of Sept. 19, his neighbors may be dead.
After Michael was pedaling around the neighborhood, around 6:20 p.m. he rode down his block, the 8000 block of Rosemere Court. There, he saw smoke coming from the frame house next door to his home.
Recalling his training with Cub Scout Pack 69, Michael knew not to panic. Instead, he dashed home and hollered for his father, Michael Pelko II, to call 9-11 because the neighbors’ house was on fire.
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“I smelled smoke and saw smoke coming from the roof. I ran to our house and screamed ‘Call 9-11.’ Then I ran to their door and kept ringing the bell,” the younger Michael said Monday evening.
“We got the people out and after all of that happened, the fire trucks came and they knew what they were doing,” Michael said.
Later, a Tri-State Fire Protection District inspector told the elder Pelko that those neighbors would have likely died in the house fire had Michael not seen the smoke and alerted his father. That inspector declined comment Tuesday.
The Cub Scouts, Michael said, taught him how to respond when you see a fire. “They taught me a bunch of stuff, about what to do when you see a fire in your house or a neighbor’s house. They told us to not be worried, do what you have to do, and save people.”
“It makes me feel good that I stopped a fire from happening and saved peoples’ lives. But if had happened the opposite way, if they had died, I would not feel good right now,” the Pleasantdale Middle School fifth-grader said.
“It was a good day to ride a bike,” he said. “So, I was out riding my bike.”
His father, an interest rate broker, happened to be working at the kitchen table, preparing for a meeting, when Michael’s yells for help rang out. At first, he thought his son or daughter was injured. They he ran out, saw the smoke, called 9-11 and began dousing the neighbor’s house with his garden hose.
The neighbor, a 78-year-old man, came out and asked what he was doing. “He had no idea his house was on fire.” Michael’s father said.
The man and his adult son managed to get out of the house and firefighters arrived soon after, the elder Pelko said.
“Abraham said he didn’t smell anything and didn’t know there was a fire. His son said he thought he heard the doorbell ringing but they were watching a movie downstairs,” Michael’s father said.
“The flames were raging out of the attic. The aluminum soffits were melting and falling off the house,” he said. “I was scared to death. I thought my house was going to start on fire.”
The neighbors’ house suffered extensive interior damage from smoke, fire and water, he said. They are staying with relatives and were not available for comment.
Later that night, after he was busy consoling the neighbors, Willow Springs Mayor John Carpino stopped by the Pelko house to meet the young man whom he called “a hero,” his father said. The village plans to honor Michael with a special commendation at a future board meeting, he said.
Michael said teachers and student at school were talking about him Monday after they saw a report on WLS-TV Sunday about his heroics. But Michael, an avid soccer player who loves math, said he does not feel special. He just says simply did what he was taught to do.
“Just because I’m his dad doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate how extraordinary it is,” Michael Pelko II said.
He and wife Shawna also have a daughter, 7-year-old Alexis. Asked if he got a special breakfast the next morning for his heroics, Michael smiled and shook his head.
“I woke up late. I was tired,” he recalled. “My dad said, ‘It’s 6:45, Michael. Get up, you’re going to be late.”
Hey, even heroes have to get up and go to school.