When 10-year-old Diana Gutierrez saw a fire had started outside her apartment, she knew what to do.
Diana quickly grabbed a one-gallon bucket and threw water on the small fire outside 2115 Kensington Drive. She did this three times to keep the fire from spreading to the building, where the damage could have been significant.
"I just thought I had to put it out," she said.
She only saw the fire because she and her 4-year-old sister had become bored while waiting at a neighbor's for their mother to come home from running errands in April. They stopped back at home to get a game, and when they were leaving, Diana saw the small fire.
By the time firefighters arrived, Diana had extinguished the fire. She said she was only a little scared when she saw the fire, and the firefighters told her she had done a "good job putting it out."
Her mother was more frightened.
“(Diana) called me as I was on my way home and told me the firefighters came,” said her mother, Maria Gutierrez. “I got really scared. She said ‘There was a fire, but don't worry I put it out.’ Stuff like that really scares me especially in apartments like this.”
Diana’s successful efforts to put out the fire didn’t miss the attention of Firefighter/Paramedic Pat Rettler. He nominated her to receive the Fred Baumgart Community Service Award from the Waukesha Kiwanis Early Risers club.
“Although we were dispatched for a bush on fire, what we found was a small fire that could have quickly consumed an entire apartment complex,” Rettler wrote in the nomination letter. “… Diana’s bravery and quick actions prevented the fire from spreading to the structure. The fire was determined to be arson in origin. Diana also assisted in the investigation by assisting Waukesha Police to identify potential suspects that were seen playing in the area shortly before the fire.”
Diana is now 11 and a fifth-grader at . She was honored with the award last week and Her little sister is celebrating her fifth birthday this week, complete with a pink cake. Just outside the porch door near their pets’ cage is a reminder of the fire – melted siding about 10 feet above the origin from the fire.
Their parents, Maria and Gustavo, are thankful for Diana’s protectiveness of her sister and the actions she took to keep the apartment building from harm.
“Diana, since a little girl, has always been really responsible,” Maria said. “When my younger daughter was born she was there like a mother. She would run to her every time she cried. They’re always together. Diana sits with her, talks to her, and makes sure that she learns everything she knows. Where Diana goes the little one goes.”
Maria said she is very proud of Diana for receiving the award.
"We were the only Hispanics at the breakfast," Maria said. "There were three other prizes, but they were all firefighters."
Editor's Note: Viviana Buzo, editor of Greendale Patch, contributed to this article.