By Joyce Coronel
There’s nothing quite like a roaring fire to add a comforting glow to a cold winter’s morning—unless, of course, the flames happen to be shooting out of the shed behind your house and have spread to your bedroom window.
At that point, lives hang in the balance.
Danny McKiernan, an Arizona State University student, experienced just such a scenario at his Tempe home recently. It was still dark outside around 6:15 a.m. and all of his other roommates were either sound asleep or had left for work or the gym.
“It was the average morning. I woke up to some sort of crackling sound,” Danny said. “I was thinking, what’s going on? I moved the drapes and looked outside. My window was fully engulfed in flames.”
Danny dashed outside. “I didn’t think it was going to be that big of an issue. I just wanted to see the lay of the land.”
The shed was going up in flames and with a substantial hedge of trees and pallets of wood nearby, he worried the fire would spread quickly.
He called 911 then ran inside to alert his roommates.
“I started banging on their doors, just screaming. I’m like, ‘Everybody get up! Our house is on fire! Just get out!’
The windows were cracking and breaking. At first, Danny’s roommates didn’t believe him. He recalls warning one, “If you stay in this room it’s not going to end well.”
Meanwhile, three fire trucks arrived on the scene along with nine or 10 firefighters to battle the flames. “We were just all kind of shocked. We weren’t really thinking—everything we did was just instinctual rather than logical,” Danny said.
“We immediately grabbed our belongings and just made sure all of us got out of the house OK.”
Wrangler News found out about the Tempe fire when Danny’s father, Kevin, contacted the paper and shared a video of the aftermath of the blaze.
“I do believe my son saved lives,” Kevin said. “He is a hero in my eyes and he always has been.”
Danny was quick to push aside such accolades.
“I am not a hero. I did what anybody else would have done—I want to make that clear.”
He’s thankful, he says, to the firefighters who put out the fire. Kevin, for his part, is deeply grateful that his son wasn’t injured. From the family home in New Jersey, 2,400 miles away, he reflected on the clan’s heritage of first responders. Danny’s uncle, Thomas, is a retired New York City fire chief. Another uncle, Brian, is a retired New York City fireman. Danny’s grandfather was a New York City gold shield detective.
“Our family is very proud of Danny’s quick thinking and response to a pressure situation,” Kevin said.
“He possibly saved lives. His instincts kicked in at the appropriate time. Save a life and we all win. I thank God everyone is OK.”
Danny said he and his roommates have talked among themselves about what happened that day.
“This could have ended really, really badly. What we took from it, especially me, is this: Don’t take anything for granted because you can lose everything in the blink of an eye. We’re very fortunate.
“It’s a blessing to just wake up and enjoy the next day you get.”