Flames were melting a mobile home around him “like a marshmallow” when Steven Hines rushed inside to see if anyone was trapped.
Despite the violent blaze, “it was like they were all having the same dream. Like they had all just finished playing,” he said.
The 17-year-old boy - who has a delinquency record - roused them and singlehandedly carried them outside.
He saved a dozen children ages 4 to 13 and their two adult babysitters, both in their 70s.
It wasn’t until hours later that he realized what he had done. “I got scared then,” he said.
Hines said he was riding his bicycle home from a grocery store Saturday night when he spotted flames from the house’s chimney.
He called into the house but got no answer.
The door was unlocked so he went inside, where his attention was drawn to the ceiling.
“Flames were moving across like waves on the ocean,” he said Tuesday. “Stuff was melting. It was like a marshmallow.”One 9-year-old boy died in the house, and when authorities removed the body Hines said he had to turn away.”I didn’t sleep that night. I was thinking about the boy,” Hines said.Authorities said the fire started near a wood-burning stove.
At Pine Bluff High School, where Hines is a sophomore, Principal Andrew Tolbert wanted to recognize him at a school assembly Monday.
However, Hines cut school Monday and Tolbert couldn’t find him at his home.
“His attendance has not been consistent, at best,” Tolbert said Tuesday, adding that the boy’s truancy shouldn’t overshadow his heroism.