A 12-year-old Girl Scout from Molino is being hailed a hero after she saved her mother, her grandmother and herself from searing flames the night their house caught fire, while also carrying their 65-pound Basset Hound in her arms to safety.
Over a year has passed since that night, but this week, Destany McKim, now 14, received the credit that the first responders who serve northern Escambia County felt she deserved.
Firefighters and Escambia County Public Safety Director Jason Rogers joined Destany’s friends and families at the Molino Fire Station on Wednesday to honor the teenager they called a hero.
McKim was presented with the Girl Scout Bronze Cross for Valor in front of the crowd.
Before pinning the badge of honor on Destany’s vest, Fire Prevention Officer Ray Melton announced that the Bronze Cross is the highest life-saving award that can be awarded by the Girl Scouts.
“If this young lady had not acted the way she did that night of that fire, this would have been a very tragic fire for Escambia County. We would have lost three lives,” Melton said. “But her bravery carried her through. She used her fear as a tool — which we try to teach our kids — and she pulled through.”
Destany’s mother, Datanya Wells, had watery eyes.
“I’m very proud of her. She’s been saving my life since the day I conceived her,” Wells said. “You know she’s my only survivor out of four — so, literally.
“I was on a suicidal path when I got pregnant with her,” Wells continued. “She literary has been saving my life since the day I conceived her.”
On Jan. 25, 2019, Destany was up late doing homework in her home’s sunroom.
At first, she wasn’t worried by the subtle, smoky smell that wafted into her study area.
“I wasn’t thinking anything of it, because my mom is not the best cook in the world,” Destany told the News Journal with a grin. “But, it started to smell more and more smoky.”
About 20 minutes passed from the time she first smelled the smoke to the moment she got a bad feeling and glanced over her shoulder — directing her gaze into the family’s living room.
“I looked over, and as soon as I looked over, the entire living room just burst into flames,” Destany recalled. “It just so happened that the second I looked over, the living room caught on fire — it had just caught on fire!”
Black smoke billowed through the home, which triggered Destany’s asthma, but she knew it was up to her to save her family, she said.
“My mother was a smoker. So, the smoke didn’t wake her up,” Destany explained. “She’s used to the smell and inhaling, and my grandmother wears a C-Pack to sleep. So, she couldn’t smell it.”
Wells told the News Journal that she had a panic attack when she saw the fire. Her daughter kept her calm enough to survive, she said.
Destany guided her mother and grandmother out of the burning building and went for the dogs — kenneled on the back porch.
Clover, a Chihuahua-doxie mix, was easy to pick up. The hard part of the rescue came when Destany realized she was going to have to carry Precious, her Basset Hound. “Precious weighed 65 pounds.”
At Wednesday’s pinning ceremony, Escambia County Public Safety Director Jason Rogers spoke to Destany’s bravery.
“Most people run out of a building that is burning. Well, she ran back into that building. That is exactly what a hero Destany is,” Rogers told the crowd. “You can’t teach courage. Courage is in here, and you have it within you. So, today Destany, you are our hero, and we honor you.”
Colin Warren-Hicks can be reached at email@example.com or 850-435-8680.