Elijah Coons with his
1-year-old sister, Willow Paul.

Elijah Coons’ mom describes the Sandy Springs 14-year-old as shy, even bookish. “He loves to read,” Deborah Coons Paul wrote in a recent email.

But Elijah also likes things that have to do with firefighters, the police or the military, and when he discovered that the city of Sandy Springs offers classes in emergency preparedness, called CERT classes, he and his dad signed up.

It paid off.

Over spring break, Elijah and his family took a vacation to Tybee Island. They had a full house, Paul said — grandparents visiting from New York, the Pauls, three of their six children, and a neighbor’s child on vacation with them. One night, a fire broke out. “Elijah had learned in his class how to react properly. He was the only one who smelled the fire. He acted fast,” his mother said.

He found the fire, ran to get a fire extinguisher from beneath the kitchen sink and put out the fire, Paul said. “He immediately began telling us that he learned in his CERT class the proper actions to take,” she wrote. “We are so proud of him.”