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Essex Teen Rescues Family from Burning Home

Charley Knisley III helped his grandparents and little brother escape early Thursday from a house on Dorsey Avenue.

(UPDATED 3:05) An Essex teenager is being called a hero after he helped rescue his family from a burning home in the 600 block of Dorsey Avenue early Thursday.

Charley Knisley III, 15, and his younger brother Collin, 10, were spending the night with their grandparents when Charley woke up shortly before 4 a.m. Thursday to find his blanket on fire. The freshman quickly alerted his brother and grandparents as the one-alarm fire quickly intensified.

"I had fallen asleep on the couch downstairs and I heard a crackling sound," Charley said. "When I woke up, I felt my blanket on fire. I then saw smoke everywhere and started screaming for everyone to get out of the house."

Charley said he helped his grandmother climb out a second-story window and caught his brother as he jumped off the porch roof. The grandfather escaped through the front door.

Baltimore County Fire Department spokesman Elise Armacost said the house was completely engulfed in flames. Everyone was safely out of the house by the time firefighters arrived moments after receiving the call at 3:55 a.m.

Collin Knisley said he was in a deep sleep and isn't sure what would have happened had his brother not acted quickly.

"I'm so proud of my brother," Collin said. "It was scary seeing all that fire and smoke, but Charley didn't panic. He did a really good deed."

The grandparents, David and Mary Falkner, both 57, were taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Carrie Knisley, Charley's mother, said her mother was expected to be released, while her father was being treated for smoke inhalation.

Carrie Knisley said she raced to the burning house from her home two blocks away after getting a call from a neighbor.

"I just can't believe no one was more seriously injured," she said. "I'm so proud of my son. Everything in the house was lost, but that's just stuff and can be replaced."

Armacost said it took fire crews about an hour to get the fire under control. 

Fire officials at the scene told Armacost that if not for Charley's quick action, the situation could have been much worse, even deadly, for the home's occupants.

“Had the young man not taken the actions he had this morning, it would have been very difficult to get people out of the home because it was completely engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived on the scene," she said.

Charley Knisley Jr., the boys' father, said he believes divine intervention played a role in everyone getting out of the house safely. The elder Knisley's father passed away on Dec. 4 and he was worried he would also lose two of his children and his in-laws.

"My dad was watching over them today," Knisley Jr. said. "I could feel the heat of the fire from around the corner and I just imagined my boys and my in-laws in there. Charley is a hero, no doubt about it."

The fire is under investigation, Armacost said.

Stay with Patch for more details.

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