Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 24, 2013

Student saves family, inspires firefighters

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

MONTCALM — The alert response of a 10-year-old Montcalm Elementary school student not only helped save the lives of his mom and dad as well as his two brothers, but also inspired the Montcalm Volunteer Fire Department to distribute smoke detectors to the families of every student in the school.

Tyler Breeden, now a fourth grade student at Montcalm Elementary, was able to get his family members out of their River Road home on Nov. 27, 2012, before it was destroyed by flames.

“It was hard seeing everything my husband has worked so hard for go up in flames that night, but I’ve said this many times since then,” Paulina Breeden said. “Material things in life can be replaced. The ones that are important to me got out safely.”

“I just woke up and saw the smoke,” Tyler Breeden said. “I was glad we all got out.”

Tyler’s selfless act of heroism prompted Denny Whitesel to get active on the telephone and computer to round up enough smoke detectors so every family represented at the school would have an early warning in the event of a fire. Whitesel was able to obtain 51 smoke detectors from First Alert, 100 from Kitty Industries and 60 from A-Plus Construction.

“I didn’t even know that Denny knew how to use a computer,” Whitesel’s wife, Captain Ruth Whitesel of the Montcalm Volunteer Fire Department said. “He did a great job and just wouldn’t stop until he had enough smoke detectors for every family here.”

“One reason that I worked so hard on this was because a lot of homes don’t have smoke detectors,” Denny Whitesel said.

“We had hoped to be able to distribute these a couple of weeks ago when we were here for Fire Prevention Week,” Ruth Whitesel said. “We try to encourage people to replace the batteries in their smoke detectors in the fall when we set our clocks back, and in the spring when we set the clocks forward an hour. Fire is such an awful thing. It’s tough to see people lose everything they have. This is the best way to alert people to get out of their homes in the event of a fire.”

Montcalm Elementary Principal Sharon Reed distributed the smoke detectors to students with the assistance of Denny Whitesel as well as Montcalm firefighters. Justin Cox and T.J. Wyatt.

— Contact Bill Archer at