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Essex Teen Honored For Saving Family From Fire

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Jessica Kartalija 3 Jessica Kartalija
Jessica Kartalija joined the Eyewitness News team during the summer of...
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ESSEX, Md. (WJZ)—A teenager from Baltimore County is being called a hero after saving the lives of three family members.

Jessica Kartalija reports that aside from minor injuries, everyone is  alive thanks to one high school freshman.

Their home on Dorsey Avenue in Essex is a total loss, but Mary and David Falkner are alive thanks to their grandson, who rescued them when their house went up in flames.

“As soon as they jumped, the windows burst out and flames started coming from left and right,” Charley Knisley said.

Charley Knisley had no idea what was in store for him when he arrived at the Baltimore County executive’s office.

“[You] saved the lives of your family, and I am truly humbled by your heroism,” said Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz at an award ceremony.

Before the family members he saved, Knisley was awarded a hero’s pin for his bravery.

“I can’t replace my grandmother or my grandfather or my brother,” Knisley said.  “They’re one of a kind.”

Knisley fell asleep watching the Orioles/Yankees game. At 4 a.m., he heard crackling and smelled smoke. 

“I had to tell them to jump,” Knisley said. “My grandmother wasn’t going to jump, but she finally did.”

“We’re very proud,” said his grandparents Mary and David Falkner.

“Yup, he’s a good kid,” Mary Falkner said. “We owe our life to him. We can’t say it enough.”

Knisley caught his 10-year-old brother when he jumped from a second-story window.

“Congratulations again, and we are very proud of you,” Kamenetz said. “On behalf of Baltimore County citizens, you did a good job.”

Considered a county hero, Knisley says he’s just happy everyone is safe.

“It’s what I should have done,” he said. “They’re my family. I need them.”

Knisley says the only thing he remembers about fire safety is stop, drop and roll. When asked if he plans to become a firefighter, he said no. He says he wants to be a professional baseball player.

The fire was ruled accidental. There’s still no word on exactly how it started.

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