When members of the Liberty Fire Department came to the Walker School to talk with students about fire safety two weeks ago, they had no idea how closely 8-year-old Kylie Johnson was paying attention.

Not only did Johnson listen closely, but this week, she applied what she learned — a move that Liberty Fire Chief Bill Gillespie said likely helped save her family’s home, as well as the life of her mother, Margaret.

“The outcome could have been tremendously different,” said Gillespie.

Gillespie said it all started at about 6:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 18, when Johnson awoke to the smell of smoke, and the steady beeping of smoke detectors.

Liberty firefighters responded to the report of a structure fire on Boynton Road, which they later learned was the Johnson residence. Gillespie said when he arrived on the scene, he was relieved to see Johnson and her mom waiting outside the house.

“There was Mom and Kylie [Johnson], waiting there at their designated meeting point,” said Gillespie.

Fire crews went to work to contain the fire, which Gillespie said was confined to one wall and part of the floor of the home. About 10 minutes later, when the fire was under control, Gillespie went to the nearby ambulance, where Johnson and her mom were being examined for any possible injuries.

Neither the child nor her mother was hurt in the fire, which Gillespie said he was relieved to see.

What happened next, Gillespie said, drove home the point of bringing fire prevention and safety presentations to local elementary schools.

“When I went over to check on Mom and Kylie in the ambulance, that little girl made it a point to say, ‘I did exactly what you told me to do.’” Gillespie recalled.

The youth told Gillespie about how she heard the smoke detectors and saw all the smoke, and how she got low to the floor to avoid breathing the toxic air. She told Gillespie about how she set out to locate her mom, who had fallen asleep on the couch, and how the two escaped the home unscathed.

Gillespie said the fire, which remains under investigation, had apparently been smoldering throughout the night. The spot that firefighters believe is where the blaze originated was situated close to the couch where Margaret Johnson was sleeping.

“This is my 22nd year, and I’ve certainly seen where 8-year-olds panic in these situations,” he said.

Kylie Johnson, however, remained focused on the task at hand.

“She kept telling me to stay low to the floor. She stayed so calm,” remembered Margaret Johnson. “She tried to keep me calm … I thought it was incredible.”

Gillespie said because Kylie awoke and got her mother out of the house quickly, firefighters got the call about the fire that much sooner. The girl’s rapid action, he said, likely played a role in saving her home and her mother’s life, as well as the family’s nine cats.

Kylie’s brothers, Tyler and Jared, were not home at the time of the fire. Margaret said both boys were proud of their sister after they learned of her heroic actions.

Wednesday, Oct. 20, Gillespie, along with Liberty Assistant Fire Chiefs Justin LaForge and Tobey Kress, Lt. Dave Florin and Firefighter Mike Ponder, arrived at Walker Memorial School to surprise Kylie with a certificate of appreciation.

The youngster was unaware the schoolwide assembly was in her honor, and she was all smiles when Gillespie called her to the front of the room to present her with her plaque.

Along with the plaque, Gillespie presented Kylie with a teddy bear wearing a red T-shirt that read, “Need a hug?” as well as a stuffed Dalmatian.

The fire department selected the stuffed animals specifically for Kylie, said Gillespie, because they noticed the girl was trying to locate her own stuffed animals the day of the fire.

Following the school assembly, Kylie was visibly overwhelmed, but the wide-eyed child kept a smile on her face in spite of her apparent shock at all the attention.

Gillespie said stories like this one demonstrate the importance of fire prevention and safety talks in the local schools.

“That’s what it’s all about. It’s getting kids to talk to Mom and Dad about things like the smoke detectors, making sure they work, making sure they change the batteries,” he said.