A heroic act, as young boy risks life to warn neighbors of fire

By: Brian Shlonsky Email
By: Brian Shlonsky Email

An incredible story of a selfless young hero, as an eighth- grade boy risks his live to save others.

KKCO 11 News was the first to break this story Friday, that has now become a national sensation. JD TenNapel acted brave beyond his years, as he rushed to save his neighbors while the Cedaredge fire quickly spread.

"I noticed the wind was kicking up, and you don't think fire, I just thought I want to get water down on the lawn, and my son goes dad, there's smoke up the road," JD’s father, James TenNapel, said.

With the clock ticking, TenNapel and his son jumped into action.

"We knew it was going to be bad, I told my son to get on his ATV and head up the road and tell the neighbors all north of the fire, because it was so fast, you just didn't know who was in distress,” TenNapel said.

Neighbors say flames were climbing a hundred feet high, smoke thickening the air, but JD headed straight into it.

"He went to every door he could, and he was coming back and the fire was coming over the road, and I saw his headlights," TenNapel said.

After warning neighbors, many of them elderly, JD was coming back to warn his dad.

"He just told me from the hospital, ‘Dad, if I didn't come through the fire, I knew you were going to get in your truck and try to find me,’ so he just floored it and came through."

JD suffered second degree burns to his arms, legs and back.

"We lost our first son stillborn, I only got one boy left, I’m just glad he’s here and ok, and they say he's going to be alright," TenNapel said.

But JD's heroics didn't stop when he got in the ambulance.

"There's kind of a narrow, a hollow area down there, and he knows there's an older person that lives there, and that's who he was trying to get to," TenNapel said.

The fire was moving too fast, and JD told his dad he knew he'd never make it in time.

"They put him in the ambulance, and he kind of coordinated with them that there's someone down there."

The woman's barn burned to the ground, but because of JD's description of where she lived, firefighters were able to save her life.
I asked TenNapel if he would call his son a hero: "Well he's my son, I’m glad he did what I told him to do, but I’m a little guilty, I’m a little emotional of what could have been," he said.

We also spoke with JD in his hospital room, where he was in good spirits.

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