Steven Tarver is only 12, but he has already proved that he can handle a trial by fire.
On the stormy evening of March 19, he and his stepmother, Deana Tarver, were watching TV when -- although they didn't realize it at the time -- a bolt of lightning struck their home. It sent a deafening crash of thunder through the walls.
"The house rumbled," Tarver said. "[Steven] jumped about 10 feet in the air. ... I said, 'Yes, that was close.'"
After the pair collected their senses, they resumed their show. But a few minutes later, the TV started acting up.
Steven, a sixth-grader at Cross Timbers Intermediate School in Arlington, went to another part of the house to check the TV there. That's when he noticed black smoke coming from the garage.
He quickly informed Tarver, who called 911. Then he took charge.
"I was in a panic," Tarver said Thursday as firefighters visited the Mansfield school district campus to present Steven with a certificate honoring him as a hero. "Steven knew exactly what to do. He said we needed to get the dogs, then when we got out to the front yard, he said we needed to go across the street."
Firefighters contained almost all the damage to the garage that night. But perhaps more important, a couple of years ago their fire safety message had gotten through to Steven, then a fourth-grader in the Arlington school district.
"The Arlington Fire Department is proud of you and thankful for you," Lt. Darrel Whitfield, the department's spokesman, told Steven as he presented the certificate.
Cross Timbers Principal Gina Rietfors said Steven's quick thinking impressed her the most.
"Not everybody his age has those kinds of problem-solving skills," she said.
So what went through Steven's mind when he saw the smoke?
"I went into survival mode," he said.
-Patrick M. Walker