NORTH OGDEN — Authorities are crediting a 13-year-old boy with potentially saving his friend's life from a house fire Friday.
Northview Fire District Deputy Fire Chief Jeremiah Jones said 13-year-old Hayden Eldridge came upon a house fire at 958 E. 2600 North in North Ogden shortly before fire crews arrived, when he saw his friend of about the same age in distress near a sliding glass door that exits to the home's backyard.
Hayden acted quickly by hurrying into the house and pulling his friend out, Jones said.
Hayden "probably saved his life, because he had taken in some smoke," Jones said. "I don't know what (could have) happened if he hadn't gone in there."
Jones cautioned there is a "fine line" dictating when it is prudent to enter a burning home, but said "in this instance he could see (his friend) close to the doorway."
The fire caused an estimated $200,000 in damage and the home is considered a total loss, but the residents are safe, according to Jones. The fire is believed to have started in the front room of the house, but its cause is still under investigation.
Robyn Buatte, who lived in the home, said, "At the end of the day, I'm just glad my kids are OK and all of that."
She added that "at one point, you've just got to get up and put one foot in front of the other."
"You can't dwell on it too much because then you'll become depressed and no good to anybody," Buatte said.
Neighbors are busy making efforts to sustain Buatte and her family through the crushing experience of losing a home right before Christmas, having filled in with food, cash, and favors.
"Luckily, their Christmas is taken care of, but it's the needs that are going to come long term. They're good on toilet paper, probably for the rest of their lives," quipped neighbor Marci Barker, who organized donations using a community Facebook page. "But the cash or even gift cards (are) for the kids to do fun things to get their minds off of everything that's going on."
Buatte said she is "completely overwhelmed and appreciative" for all the help her family has received. "It just means a lot. Like, people I've never even met coming up and saying a prayer and giving us money and just wishing us well," she said. "It makes me feel good that people want to do that but then I know there's people out there worse off than I am. I'm just hoping I can repay the favor."
Brent Chugg, mayor of North Ogden, praised the community's response, saying "the people here are very gracious."
"They're charitable and they've very much ready to help at any time," Chugg said.
Donations on behalf of the Buatte family may be dropped off at the house next door to the east. A donation fund in the Buatte family's name has also been arranged at America First Credit Union.