Forest Grove teen dashes to the rescue

A 14-year-old girl enters burning house to warn a mother and her sleeping child that their home is ablaze
by: Chase Allgood, Kayla Varde, 14, talks to Forest Grove fire marshal Bill Bench shortly after the teen dashed inside the burning home on Birch Street to warn its residents that the house was on fire.

An alert and gutsy 14-year-old Forest Grove girl burst into a house in the city's Old Town neighborhood Thursday to warn the family inside that their home was ablaze.

'I said, you're house is on fire,' Kayla Varde told the News-Times shortly after the incident.

Because of the warning, the young woman inside was able to grab her child and flee the house, shortly before the fire spread from the chimney to the second story, with flames soon engulfing the structure.

Kayla's father, James Varde, was driving on Birch Street with his teenage daughter at about 3:30 p.m. when Kayla noticed smoke coming from a home at 12th Avenue.

'I saw the house was on fire and I said, 'Dad, stop the car,' Kayla recalled.

She jumped out of the car, sprinted to the house and sounded her alarm, even though flames were rising four feet above the roof line.

Cheri, who declined to give her last name, followed Kayla out of the house, but then Cheri said her baby was sleeping inside the house.

Cheri and Kayla re-entered the house, followed by Kayla's father.

By then smoke had filled the rooms, and James Varde was having a hard time seeing as he did a sweep of the bottom floor for pets or other occupants.

Cheri and Kayla grabbed the child and left the house with James Varde.

Just in time.

"By the time we got back out," James Varde said, "a minute later the roof had caved in."

Kayla, however, wasn't finished. Unable to get her cell phone to work, she raced to a neighboring house to call 9-1-1.

Fire crews from Forest Grove, Cornelius and Hillsboro quickly arrived.

James Varde was proud of his daughter. 'If it wasn't for her alertness, I don't know what would have happened,' he said.

'The baby was still asleep.'

"I firmly believe three more minutes, that fire It would have been impossible to survive that," he said.

Cheri, in tears and consoled by neighbors and friends, was thankful no one was hurt.

'All I can say is I'm glad everybody's safe,' she said.