Lifestyle & Human Interest

Brave 12-Year-Old Saves Dad's Life After Explosion Engulfs Home in Flames


When Ryan Harelson and his 12-year-old son headed to Payson, Arizona, for the weekend with their two dogs, they were looking forward to a relaxing weekend of fun activities.

Shooting, relaxing, cooking steaks and riding dirt bikes: That was the lineup for the weekend — not burning their vacation home.

Friday night is when things started going south. The evening started off nicely, with grilled steaks and sitting around a firepit.

The father-son duo thought they put the fire out, but at some point during the night, James — the 12-year-old — woke up to an even larger conflagration and at some point, an explosion.

“I saw fire between the lines of the deck,” he said, according to the Payson Roundup.

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“I heard cracking, looked out my window and saw orange,” he said. “I was screaming as loud as I could.”

“It was just like a boom,” James said, according to KPNX. “I heard an explosion and then my TV fell down.”

“I see a orange glare on the wood,” he added. “So I ran downstairs and opened the door and saw that the tree was on fire. My heart just dropped and I was so scared.”

James was up and wide awake, but according to KPNX, his dad had taken a sleeping pill and was down for the count. James tried splashing water over his dad’s face, which eventually woke him up.

The boy grabbed his things — which, of course, included a backpack full of Halloween candy, according to the Payson Roundup — and he and their dog Duke managed to escape from the home.

Ryan also got out by scrambling through a window, but sadly their second dog did not make it out.

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The two can only guess at what actually happened, but Ryan said there was a propane tank near the fire pit which may have caused the explosion, KPNX reported.

Along with the propane tank, there were more than 12 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition that may have burned up or added to the flames, according to the Payson Roundup.

Thankfully, firefighters managed to contain the blaze and it did not spread to other properties. Harelson did create a GoFundMe page to try to recover some of their costs.

“My son and I lost our home over the weekend and insurance will only cover a fraction of what we lost,” he posted on GoFundMe.

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