Arts High teen called ‘hero’ after saving 93-year-old with Alzheimer’s from house fire

Jarrett Carter, 16, rushed to rescue a 93-year-old woman on May 26, 2021 who lived two doors down when a fire started in her home, family said.Courtesy of Rick Carter

Jarrett Carter, 16, saw thick, gray smoke when he rushed two houses down to Jewel Harris’ home in Newark on Wednesday morning.

Harris, 93, has Alzheimer’s and lives alone in the home on Eastern Parkway, her family said. Without Carter’s quick actions to get Harris out of the house, her family worried she could have passed out.

“When I got down there she was asking me what was happening,” said the teen, who had just started his remote school day when he ran out to help.

Another neighbor alerted Carter’s dad, a former East Orange fire captain, to tell him about the smoke coming from Harris’ home before phoning the fire department. Rick Carter then called his son and told him to check on Harris, both families said.

The teen, a sophomore at Arts High School, is now being lauded as a hero by Harris’ daughter, son-in-law, and father. The Newark Public Safety Department thanked him for his help too.

“It wasn’t an easy feat,” said June Wright-Calhoun, Harris’ daughter. “I’m sure she was like, ‘What is going on?’ I really commend him.”

Firefighters responded at 8:19 a.m. and brought the fire under control about 20 minutes later, Newark Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara said. Harris was evaluated for smoke inhalation. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, he said.

“We are grateful for the support of neighbors, including the family of East Orange Fire Captain Carter, who we have learned offered assistance to the elderly victim during this incident,” O’Hara said.

Rick Carter reviewed surveillance video that showed his son rushing out of the house after Harris’ dog ran up their driveway to get their attention too.

“That was a proud moment for me,” Carter said of his son.

The Carters have kept an eye on Harris ever since they moved in around 2007, cutting her grass and bringing her a plate of food when they cook dinner. Harris has lived in the home for about 40 years, her family said.

Harris had just woken up when NJ Advance Media spoke to her daughter on Friday. The daughter drove up from her home in Maryland and is staying with her mom in a hotel while they evaluate the next steps for Harris’ living situation.

Harris’ son-in-law, a retired police officer, reached out to NJ Advance Media to commend the teen. He thought it was important to show that young people are still doing good things in their communities.

“I think he’s a hero,” said the son-in-law, Robert Calhoun. “When I see him, I’m going to shake his hand.”

The 16-year-old doesn’t consider himself a hero though.

“I would’ve done it for anybody,” he said. “I think any person would’ve done what I did. I don’t think there was anything special to what I did.”

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