Firefighter's special training helps calm young autistic boy aft - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Firefighter's special training helps calm young autistic boy after fire

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Jonathan with his new teddy bear. Jonathan with his new teddy bear.
GIBSON CO., IN (WFIE) -

One family is recovering Thursday night after a water heater in their mobile home sparked a small fire, but the real story is how a firefighter used some special training to calm a young boy frightened by that fire.

The Kroeger family is thanking the Princeton Fire Department for not only saving their mobile home from burning to the ground, but for what they did after the fire was under control. 

Patricia Kroeger knew her hot water heater was leaking, but didn't know what a hazard it was until water leaked over the electric panel and sparked a fire.

By the time she had gathered her family outside, she thought they were going to watch their home burn to the ground.

"They ran in and just took over and they calmed me down and I was trying to comfort my son because he was scared to death," said Kroeger.

Patricia's 8-year-old son, Jonathan, is autistic.

A moment of panic and a frantic 9-1-1 call, threw a wrench in Jonathon's routine, causing chaos that he can't process quickly. Firefighter Justin Hyneman stepped in.

"They came and talked to him like they've known him forever, that meant the world to me that night because I couldn't really get him to calm down because I was upset," said Kroeger.

They gave Justin a teddy bear to name and take care of and a bag of hot wheels cars. Jonathan had a new friend who has plenty off experience with autistic children.

"I went over and talked to Jonathan, basically they're routine based, they like a lot of set routines," said Justin Hyneman, Princeton Fire Dept.

The State of Indiana requires first responders to receive training in the autism response situations, but Hyneman's stepson also has the spectrum disorder, giving him an edge in communicating and calming Jonathan. He says it's all in a day's work.

"It was a textbook call and I did what I'm trained to do, I didn't really do anything different," said Hyneman. 

The State of Indiana requires all emergency personnel to be trained to handle those persons with autism. Princeton fire officials say they attend a four-hour training each year in Vincennes. They says it's a way to stay updated on protocols and situations that can arise. 

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