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Vail: Child saves family from fire

Special to the Vail DailyNine-year-old Taylor De Leon alerted her family that a Stone Creek condominium was on fire when a smoke alarm failed. The fire broke out about 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
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AVON – At 5:30 a.m. Sunday, young Taylor De Leon awoke to the sound of crackling and the smell of smoke, so she crawled out of bed and saved her family.

The 9-year-old girl saw the bathroom door “glowing” and smoke filling the air to about four feet off the floor.

She careened across the hall and shook awake her grandmother, Christie Banowetz, screaming, “My bathroom caught on fire!”



The smoke detector in Banowetz’s Stone Creek condominium had failed, and they might have died in the fire had it not been for Taylor’s quick actions, said her mother, Aundrea De Leon, and Charlie Moore, fire chief of the Eagle River Fire Protection District.

The family bounced out of bed and headed for the door. Two dogs, two cats and seven adults all made it out.



“If she had been two or three minutes later, I don’t know how we would have gotten the children out. I don’t know how any of us would have gotten out,” Aundrea said. “She did exactly what she was supposed to do; she woke people up and got an adult.”

Robert De Leon, Aundrea’s husband, dashed upstairs to make sure everyone and everything was out that needed to be. When he burst into the bathroom, charred wood was already falling from the ceiling.

In addition to the family, more than two dozen other people and pets escaped the building and were taken to Avon Elementary School by the Avon police and the Avon transit department.

First night in the new place

The family had spent Saturday moving Banowetz, Aundrea’s mother, to Avon for a new job with Title Company of the Rockies. They had arrived about 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon and spent Saturday getting Banowetz settled in.

The unit is sort of a split level with upstairs bedrooms. Once they had discovered the fire and made it downstairs, there was no going back.

“We were throwing people out the door, grabbing car keys, coats, boots … things we thought we’d need. We were counting heads on our way out, counting again when we were outside and again when we were sitting in the truck,” Aundra said.

“Sitting in the Yukon, you could see flames leaping through the roof and smoke pouring through the windows,” Aundrea said.

The fire is under investigation but appears to have started in the area of a bathroom fan, Moore said.

“The fire burned through some structural supports on the roof, and firefighters found it necessary to cut that portion of the roof away to access the fire and extinguish it,” Moore said.

It was a furnished apartment, so Banowetz didn’t lose any of her own furnishings, but a couple of her grandchildren’s hand-held computer games went up in smoke. The fire caused about $75,000 in damage, Moore said.

“The important stuff got out,” Aundra said. “We can replace games and any of the personal items. We cannot replace our children.”

There are four children: Christopher, 12; Taylor, 9; Christine, 3, and Linley, 2.

Residents of the unaffected units were allowed back into their homes around 8:30 a.m.


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