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College Student Who Rescued Ross Family From Their Burning Home Described as a 'Humble Hero'

Paul Shields alerted the sleeping Heyl family minutes before fire consumed their home.

 On the day that he saved the lives of four of his neighbors on Lilac Avenue in Ross Township , Paul Shields, 20, went to work at Willi's Ski Shop, but he never bothered to tell a co-worker what he did.

"That's the kind of kid he is," said his mother, Patti. "A good friend of mine told me that a parent always hopes that they have raised their child right (and) you know you did! He is the best."

It was shortly before 8 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving  when Shields noticed smoke coming from behind his neighbor's home across the street at 125 Lilac Ave.

"At first I thought it was a bonfire. They have them sometimes," said Shields. "I ran over to check and realized it was a lot more serious. The rear deck was on fire and the flames were already five feet high."

Shields went to the front door and started banging.

"At first, there was no response from inside," he said. "So I just started making as much noise as I could. I was kicking on the door and yelling at the top of my lungs."

Jeff Heyl appeared at a window near the front door.

"I think at first he thought I was trying to break into his home," said Shields. "I guess he was still groggy and didn't understand yet what was going on."

Heyl opened the front door, and both men ran back up the steps to get the rest of the family out.

"I was halfway up the steps and could see the flames through the rear sliding glass door," said Shields. "That's when the living room started to burn. I got to the top of the steps and just kept yelling, "Everybody out, fire.' "

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Heyl, his wife Kim, son Kevin and daughter Krissy ran from the home in pajamas and bare feet. Within minutes, the fire had spread to the attic.

"Paul is a hero. That's all there is to it," said Heyl. "The kid saved our lives. Thank God he was home from school and was able to wake us up. I can't say enough about him."

Shields is a junior at Penn State University's main campus where he is studying mechanical engineering. He is a 2010 North Hills High School graduate.

Shields shies away from the hero label.

"It was just lucky I noticed the fire when I did," he said.

Shields will be back home from Penn State in a few weeks, when the volunteer fire department, the Ross police, and the Ross commissioners plan to honor him during their meeting Dec. 17.

Patti Shields said the outpouring of support for the Heyl family has been phenomenal. More on that in Tuesday's North Hills Patch.

Check out some of today's other top stories here .

 

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