— GOOD HOPE, Ala. (AP) — Good Hope football player Hunter Freeman was taking clothes to the laundry room when he noticed smoke coming from the ceiling of his house. After taking a closer look, he realized his home was becoming engulfed in flames and ran to wake up his dad.
Because of Hunter's alertness, the Freeman family said their 14-year-old son saved their lives. Hunter's sister Larisa and friend Marie were still asleep, as well as Hunter's father, John.
"I was already awake, I was just laying in bed," Hunter said. "I smelled smoke so I thought dad was cooking, but he was in bed, too. So I just laid there thinking someone was going to come and tell me food was ready and no one ever did. I just happened to get up to take my clothes to the laundry room to wash them and I saw black smoke on the ceiling and realized the column and grapevine were on fire. I dropped the laundry and ran to my dad's room and told him the house was on fire, and dad said, 'Whose house?' and I said, 'Ours.'"
Hunter's father, John, said it was a little after 10 a.m. on a recent Thursday when the fire started, and the family was outside by 10:15 a.m. They notified the fire department, and John called his wife, Misty, who was at work at the time. No one was injured in the incident.
"After Hunter told me, I grabbed a bucket of water to see if I could put some of it out," John said. "By the time I got back outside, the fire was coming up through the porch and all the way up the column, so I just ran and told them to get out of the house."
Hunter said his dad told him to call 911 and wake up his sister and her friend while he was trying to put the fire out.
"When I opened Larisa's door and told her the house was on fire, she looked at me funny and thought I was kidding," Hunter said. "Then they ran outside with us and realized it wasn't a joke."
Larisa Young, 18, who recently graduated from Good Hope High, said she initially thought Hunter was playing a prank, but his awareness saved her life.
"I'm so thankful for my brother," Larisa said. "If it wasn't for him, my dad, myself and Marie wouldn't be alive."
Since the fire, the family has tried to salvage as much as possible of what is left. John told The Times 95 percent of their possessions were destroyed.
"A few cabinets and dishes we may be able to save, but our furniture, bedroom suites, clothes, stuff in the closets are gone," John said. "There's nothing that can't be replaced. We saved a lot of our pictures luckily. What's really upsetting is that Hunter is the one that woke us up and yet his room received the most damage."
"We saved two things from Hunter's room, two footballs," Larisa added. "Go figure, since he is a football player."
Misty Freeman said the family will overcome this terrible event, and she's extremely grateful for the support she and her family have already received.
"What's done is done. You just have to pick-up and move on," Misty said. "You have your memories in your heart, so you just move forward. It's a new beginning. I have to thank the community. Their outpouring of love and support has just been overwhelming, and we are so thankful for that."