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Teen Credited With Saving Campers From Fire

Sami Saunders, of Warren, woke sleeping campers when her Camp Pontiac, N.Y., dormitory was on fire Saturday morning.

When fire erupted in a dorm at Camp Pontiac, in Copake, N.Y., early Saturday, Warren teen Sami Saunders helped save the lives of her dorm-mates.
When fire erupted in a dorm at Camp Pontiac, in Copake, N.Y., early Saturday, Warren teen Sami Saunders helped save the lives of her dorm-mates.
Warren resident Sami Saunders, 14, helped prevent injuries when she alerted 25 sleeping kids at Camp Pontiac, in Copake, N.Y., that their dormitory was on fire at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday. 

According to news reports of the incident, the fire is believed to have been caused by overloaded electrical outlets or possibly wires damaged by animals shorted out —which may be what alerted Sami to begin with.

"I'm a very light sleeper and I felt my fan go off, so I woke up," she said. She said she noticed other campers' fans were also off—then, she said, "I saw a light from the ceiling and I just saw it keep spreading."

Realizing "something wasn't right," the 14-year-old Morristown-Beard School student tried to waken the dorm's camp counselor to tell her she thought there was a fire.

But the fast moving blaze changed her plans.

"I saw it on the ground and everywhere, so I just screamed fire and ran to try to wake everyone," Sami said.

She kept screaming and scrambled out of the dorm, followed by all of her fellow campers—amazingly, none of whom reported any injuries.

The blaze spread to two other buildings before local firefighters were able to get it under control and extinguished. Copake Fire Department Chief David Proper called it a "miracle" no one was injured, and credited Sami's fast actions and clear-headedness with preventing any.

In the days since the fire, campers have been expressing their appreciation for Sami's life-saving actions, but she downplays her heroism.

"It's kind of weird having people come up to me me and thanking me and everything, but I really just woke up and saw it," she said. "If anyone else woke up, they would have seen it.

"It was just chance that I was the one who woke up," she said.
 

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