‘He’s our superhero’: Father credits son with saving his life in Sunday fire
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Brian O’Brien and Melissa Kincella say their 9-year-old son Bentley saved his father’s life Sunday when a fire broke out inside their rented home on Pine Street in downtown Steamboat Springs.
The family had just moved everything they owned into the house three weeks prior.
That morning, O’Brien arrived home around 9:30 a.m. after three long days spent plowing snow in the wake of major storms.
He went immediately to sleep on the couch.
Kincella was at the grocery store, buying ingredients to make cookies.
Bentley was napping in his bedroom.
At about 10:15 a.m., flames engulfed the kitchen and thick brown and black smoke filled the small blue house.
The family’s dog, a blue heeler named Aspen, started jumping and barking at the window, trying to break the glass. A neighbor heard the dog, rushed into the house and grabbed Bentley and Aspen and brought them into the street.
The neighbor took his eyes off Bentley for a split second, according to O’Brien, and the boy ran back inside to get his father.
To send donations, visit gofundme.com/f/help-brian-melissa-and-bentley. Donations are also being collected at Colorado Group Realty.
A very heavy sleeper, O’Brien only woke up because of being shaken by Bentley, who could barely see him due to the thick smoke. Bentley knew his father was on the couch, which was not far from the front door.
They said they never heard any smoke alarms going off, though there are several in the house.
Aspen, who is a service dog, followed Bentley back into the house.
O’Brien, Bentley and Aspen made it back out of the house safely, but O’Brien said he was told by fire officials that he may have had only about another 30 seconds before it would have been impossible for Bentley to enter.
“He’s our super hero,” Kincella said.
“I panicked,” O’Brien said. “He didn’t.”
Bentley’s parents attribute his quick actions and life-saving heroism to having gone through fire safety training at his school only a few weeks ago.
O’Brien did inhale a good bit of smoke and was taken to the hospital. Bentley was also admitted — a precaution because of his asthma.
Bentley’s three-month-old kitten Goldie did not make it out alive. The boy had been given the little orange cat by an aunt as an early Christmas present.
In an attached unit being rented as an Airbnb, the renter was not at home, but a dog was inside. A passerby let the dog out.
In 2008, there was a fire in the Airbnb part of the same house. A man and his dog were killed.
After making several visits to their home this week, the contents appear to be a total loss, the couple said. They’ve tried to see if anything is salvageable, but it is all covered in a thick layer of black grime, and the smell is overpowering — even with masks — Kincella said.
Because they had just moved in, the family had not yet transferred their renter’s insurance to the new address. They had paid for the month, but it was still attached to their old address.
The call to the insurance company lasted less than a minute, O’Brien said. There was no negotiating.
About a year ago, the family was forced to leave another house in Steamboat when it was suddenly sold by the owner.
“It’s been a struggle to find a place,” Kincella said.
They lived in a camper over the summer to save money for a new home. And they were very excited about the Pine Street house. Bentley had his own room, and they’d just bought him bunk beds.
Five days later, sitting in the lobby of their temporary home at the Holiday Inn, the couple said the shock was starting to wear off.
Bentley was at school — his first time back to for a whole day with his third-grade class at Strawberry Park Elementary School.
Bentley has nightmares, and none of them are getting much sleep, they said.
And Bentley is beating himself up about not being able to save his kitten. Kincella said she tries to remind him how lucky they all are to be alive.
At first, the boy didn’t want to entertain the thought of a new cat. But on Thursday, he said he did want another one, but only if it was just like Goldie, Kincella said.
“Every time I close my eyes, I think of something else we lost,” O’Brien said.
The hardest things to loose were Bentley’s baby photos, and O’Brien’s father’s retirement watch.
Then there are the things you don’t think of, they said, like a car key that costs $700 to replace.
And O’Brien, who works for Steamboat Fence and Barn, lost about $10,000 worth of tools he had just pulled off a job site.
But while they are just beginning to deal with the logistics of finding a new home and replacing everything they owned, the couple is also overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.
“The whole town has been amazing,” O’Brien said.
They are also overwhelmed by the number of people they want to thank.
“The community showed us what a community is,” Kincella said.
At that moment, a woman walked in the front door of the hotel with an oversized wrapped box.
“Is that for Bentley?” Kincella asked.
It was and came with a card signed by the “Butter Boys” from Sk8 Church.
A few days before the fire, Bentley chatted with Santa. He asked for a desk, a gaming computer and Xbox games. After the fire, Kincella said he called Santa to add a new Xbox to the list.
In addition to his passion for gaming, Bentley is also a very active kid. He loves to play hockey and soccer and snowboard and skateboard.
Both O’Brien and Kincella, who works at Walmart, said their employers have been amazingly supportive. They’ve helped with lodging and getting a new storage unit, among countless other things, including setting up a GoFundMe page.
Donations are also being collected at Colorado Group Realty. They’ve received support from numerous individuals, as well as Routt County Crisis Support.
“Pretty much anything you think of, we need,” O’Brien said. “We lost everything.”
They are struggling, but they are also deeply grateful — to their son, to the community and in knowing how lucky they are to be alive.
The family is about to move to the Hampton Inn, where the manager offered to house them until after Christmas. They have a lead on a condo in Stagecoach but are still looking for something closer to their jobs and Bentley’s school.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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