A Tilden Township teen has been heralded as a hero after rescuing her younger sister from a house fire.

Sen. David G. Argall and Rep. Jerry Knowles, along with local government officials and emergency responders, honored Marcela Marcune-Brown, 13, for her heroic efforts during a May 17 ceremony held at the Tilden Township Municipal Building.

Marcela rescued her little sister, Coral, 10, from a house fire on April 29 just before 5 a.m. She even made sure their dog, Mojo, made it out of the house safely.

“I congratulate you on a job very well done,” said Argall, presenting a certificate of recognition from the Senate.

“Marcela, you are a hero. You are genuinely a hero,” said Knowles, who presented a certificate from the House of Representatives. They also presented her with an American flag.

According to State Police, smoke alarms awoke Marcela at about 4:57 a.m. Marcela and Coral got low to the floor and exited out the back door. They had been home alone for a short period of time when the fire was discovered.

“The incident that we’re here for today involves an act of heroism that occurred before firefighters even were on the scene,” said State Police Trooper Fire Marshall Janssen Herb. “A fire ignited inside the residence… as they were sleeping. They were alerted to a dangerous, life-threatening condition inside the residence from working smoke detectors.”

Herb noted that the smoke detectors were not hard wired and relied on batteries to operate properly.

“I am told that Marcela adamantly made sure that working batteries were present in the smoke detectors,” Herb said. “Being the best big sister that anyone could ask for, she got her younger sibling to safety from their room through conditions involving heavy smoke making it difficult to safely exit. Marcela acted as though she had years of experience in a severe and dangerous situation, clearly and calmly. She not only saved her own life but that of her sister.”

“The investigation showed that the conditions inside this residence would have quickly deteriorated and this certainly could have turned more tragic,” he added.

Tilden Township Supervisor Fred Herman, who lives across the street from the family, presented a certificate of appreciation to Marcela on behalf of the staff and residents of Tilden Township, signed by the Township Supervisors, staff and Chief of Police.

“In recognition in honor of your heroic efforts in rescuing yourself and your sister from a fire in your home on April 29,” said Herman. “I’m just delighted that things worked out the way they did.”

Marcela’s father, Nils Marcune, credits the fire prevention education Marcela received at her elementary school from the Kempton Fire Company for teaching her what to do in the event of a house fire.

“This is why we do (fire prevention events),” said Kempton Fire Chief Matt Brett, presenting Marcela with a plaque.

Argall also talked about the “key role of volunteers not in just putting out emergencies but in helping to prevent them and training people on how to react.”

“I also congratulate the fire department for what you do in terms of educating these kids and telling them what to do,” said Knowles.

Marcela shared what happened the day of the fire. Waking to hear her dog’s barking, she opened her bedroom door and saw smoke. She checked on her grandmother to find she had already left. At this point, the smoke became heavy.

“I got my sister and grabbed my phone and called 911,” said Marcela. She said there was a lot of smoke. They had to crawl to get out. They didn’t see fire until a couple minutes after they got outside.

Her sister, Coral, shared her perspective.

“I woke up and I thought it was time to get up for school. She opened the door and there was all of this black smoke. She told me to get out. She got the phone and the dog came out. She did a perfect job. I’m really proud of her and I’m really glad she worried about me and trying to get our dog out and trying to call 911 as fast as she could,” said Coral.

In regard to her sister being honored as a hero, Coral said, “I think that she earned to be honored today for being a really good hero. She has saved me a bunch of times and I’m really proud of her for this one because this was on my life and I’m proud of her for getting me out.”

According to police, fire crews arrived on scene to find fire venting from the front window of the home. Crews were able to limit the direct fire damage to the front of the house and mainly one room. The investigation showed that the fire originated in a front master bedroom. The cause is unknown.

Smoke damage was significant through the entire house. The damage is estimated to be at least $150,000.

“Everything else is material. The most important things got out,” said Nils, Marcela and Coral’s father. “I am extremely thankful and grateful to all of the emergency response workers as well as I am extremely proud of how my girls handled the situation, both of them. They’re amazing and they couldn’t make me more proud.”


Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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