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COSTA MESA : Girl, 9, Gets Award for Actions in Fire

A 9-year-old Costa Mesa girl who saved her mother’s life by calling 911 as a fire was raging through their house was recognized as a heroine Monday by the Police Department.

April Thousand was presented with the Recognition of Valor, the first such award the department has given, in a ceremony in which Costa Mesa Police Officers Bill Adams and Ron Tuso received Medals of Valor for their efforts in the rescue. April’s mother, Linda Thousand, was sound asleep on the ground floor of their two-story home when the fire broke out about 10:30 p.m., on Feb. 20, and she did not awaken when her daughter called to her from upstairs.

Police said that the award will be given to people whose actions merit them and that there is no set schedule for them.

April described the night of the fire in an interview Sunday night. She said that she had awakened in her second-story bedroom that night around 10:30 and had gotten out of bed and switched on the television. Then she noticed that the hall light, usually on all night, seemed to be off.

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And then she smelled smoke.

“I tried to get down the staircase, but it was hot,” April said. “I tried to call Mom, but she wouldn’t wake up.”

She ran to a phone upstairs and dialed 911.

“The operator told me to get out of the house, but I said, ‘I can’t; I’m upstairs.’ ” Choking, she raced to a window, flung it open and began gasping for air. A neighbor who had jumped over the fence began yelling at her to jump. “I thought there was going to be a net, but there wasn’t,” April said.

She waited at the window until another neighbor got a ladder and leaned it against the house. Then she climbed down. She ran to a neighbor’s house to call her father, who lives two blocks away. “I couldn’t believe how black she was,” Don Thousand recalled.

In the meantime, police officers Adams and Tuso, who were the first to arrive on the scene, kicked in the front door and crawled into the house, police said. Adams made his way into Linda Thousand’s bedroom, where he found her asleep. She was awakened, and the officers took her outside.

Sixteen firefighters arrived at 10:42, fire officials said. The fire began with a pot that had been left on the stove, and it gutted the kitchen and caused smoke damage throughout the house.

April’s mother, who said she had stressed calling 911 and remaining calm in a fire, said she was pleased with her daughter’s conduct: “It’s a great thing she did.”

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