Teenager leaps into action after one-year-old brother spills boiling water over himself

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By Steven O'Neill

Ryan Burns And Alfie

A teenager who leapt into action after his baby brother was doused in boiling water has told how he drew upon safety skills taught by firefighters.

One-year-old Alfie pulled a freshly boiled kettle of water over himself after mum Janet’s attention was distracted for a brief moment at their home in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire.

Ryan, 15, used the skills he learned from a course at Coatbridge Fire Station to remain calm in the situation and await the arrival of paramedics.

He now wants to be a firefighter when he leaves school. Mum Janet said: “I actually have no idea what I’d have done without Ryan there – I’m so proud of him.”

The incident unfolded earlier in June when the family dog, a pug named Peanut, dashed into the kitchen. Janet took hold of the puppy and turned just in time to see Alfie grabbing the kettle.

She said: “I looked away for a split second and Alfie had managed to get a hold of the kettle, he’s not allowed in the kitchen and I’ve got safety gates up but they were open on this one occasion.”

Alfie was left screaming in pain. Janet revealed: “I started panicking. I had no idea how it happened and I went into complete shock. I was told later that I’d phoned my sister. I can’t even remember doing that.”

But teenager Ryan heard the screaming from his bedroom and immediately took Alfie into the shower. Janet added: “He was unbelievably calm and completely took control of the situation.

“I had tried to take Alfie’s T-Shirt off of him which Ryan said I shouldn’t have done. I actually have no idea what I’d have done without Ryan there – I’m so proud of him.”

Ryan burns story - alfie's burns

St Andrews High School pupil Ryan knew that the water should not be too cold when applied to burns and also that he should not remove any more clothing as this can peel off skin.

Ryan said: “I was nervous but I knew I had to keep calm and take control of the situation. I just calmly took Alfie to the shower and put the water on.” He also briefed paramedics from the Scottish Ambulance Service when they arrived.

Ryan learned his skills from a FireSkills employability course he attended at his local Fire Station back in February. The course uses fire service drills and emergency scenarios to equip teenagers with practical safety knowledge and a teamwork ethic.

He explained: “The course was good, I would recommend it to anyone. I enjoyed everything and it taught me how to do CPR and take control of a situation while remaining calm. 

“Being a firefighter was something I thought I would like to do - but now I know I want to.”

The course helped Ryan so much that he said it felt “natural and confident” when he stepped in to help his brother.

Martin Blunden is the Chief Officer of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

After hearing about the incident, he said: “Ryan has stepped into an extremely stressful and emotional situation and handled it like a true professional.

“His mum is right to be proud of him and I’m extremely happy that we were able to equip Ryan with the skills to be able to help his family at their time of need.

“It’s a moment that Ryan can be extremely proud of, accidents happen and to be there for your brother and mum like he was shows a real level of confidence and bravery.”

Stephen Wright is the Local Senior Officer for North Lanarkshire, he said: “I’m extremely proud that we were able to help equip Ryan with the skills required to help his family.

“This course has proved invaluable and has helped provide over 1000 pupils with potentially life-saving knowledge.

“A huge well done to Ryan for his bravery in a challenging situation.”  

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