- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2005

Selling Girl Scout cookies and saving houses from fires are all in a day’s work for 8-year-old Ellena Soule, of Clifton.

Ellena, a Brownie, was going door to door in the 6000 block of Rockland Drive in the Clifton area selling cookies with her mother, Yuke Soule, on Saturday afternoon, when she saw smoke coming from a neighbor’s garage.

“My mom and I got to this house and rang the door bell, and no one was there,” Ellena said yesterday. “The smoke was coming out of their garage door, but it wasn’t open.”

After pointing out the smoke to her mom, they went to another neighbor’s house and called 911, an act that saved the two-story home owned by Richard and Sabine Bridges.

Mrs. Bridges, 52, said she is grateful that Ellena knew what to do when she saw the smoke, adding that because of the girl’s quick actions, the fire in the two-car garage didn’t spread to the house.

“Without the little girl, honestly a half-hour longer, it would’ve been the house, no kidding,” Mrs. Bridges said. “She deserves every praise and any award the Girl Scouts can give her, honestly.”

Ellena said she learned in school what do in case of a fire.

“They said if you see a fire or some evidence of it, like smoke and smell of smoke, tell a grown-up and they’ll call 911,” she said.

Fairfax County fire officials are touting Ellena’s action as a prime example of what fire-awareness training in schools can do for communities.

“I asked her how she learned what to do, and she said she learned that in her kindergarten and elementary school,” said Lt. Raul Castillo , a spokesman for the county fire department. “It’s good that the information that we teach our local students and residents does work, especially coming from a young one.”

Because of Ellena’s alertness and firefighters’ swift response, the blaze was contained to the garage and put out in about 10 minutes, Lt. Castillo said.

The fire started sometime before 12:45 p.m. when ashes from the Bridges’ fireplace reignited in a paper bag they were put in about three hours earlier.

After filling the paper bag with the ashes, the Bridges placed it next to two garbage cans in their garage before leaving the house to run errands. When they returned, they found their garage destroyed. Damage is estimated at $35,000.

The county fire officials suggested to administrators at Ellena’s school that they reward her actions.

“That an 8-year-old girl alerts neighbors and acts quickly preventing further damage and possibly injury is commendable,” Lt. Castillo said.

Mrs. Soule asked that the name of Ellena’s school not be identified for safety reasons.

The Bridges also rewarded Ellena. Ellena said they purchased about $70 worth of Girl Scout cookies from her.

“We may not be eating them all ourselves,” Mrs. Bridges said. “But somebody will.”

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