Girl, 9, helps others out of burning Browns Mills motel

February 27, 2013 3:44:05 PM PST
A 9-year-old girl is being credited for helping get other residents out of a New Jersey motel as it burned.

"I feel so happy that I did it for people and I helped people," Nicole Gemignani said.

9-year-old Nicole is being cheered by neighbors whose lives she saved yesterday as their extended stay residence inn went up in horrific smoke and flames.

About 4:30 p.m. yesterday, Nicole was just home from school when she smelled smoke and sensed instantly that trouble was brewing.

There were more than a dozen apartments at the Pine Village Inn in Browns Mills.

After waking up and alerting her mother, Nicole went door to door to alert her neighbors.

Her parents had trained her for just this kind of potential disaster.

"I was going to grab a glass so I could drink some milk and I smelled some smoke, but I thought there was somebody cooking downstairs. All of a sudden I see smoke coming up, so I get my mom, get my family, my friends, and I say 'get out now!' I pushed people down the steps so they don't get hurt," Nicole said.

More than half the apartments here were completely destroyed.

Most neighbors lost everything they had, but thanks to Nicole they got out with the lives and no serious physical injury.

Helen Gemignani is a proud mother reflecting on her daughter's rising to the moment.

"I was under medication, kind of out of it, and finally when she said it and I saw the smoke, I was like 'we just got to get out now,'" Helen said.

Workmen spent most of the day clearing away the rubble.

At least 8 families lost everything, but they are grateful to Nicole including 12-year-old Monica Vaughn.

"I'm very proud of her because she saved me, my mom, a little baby, her, her mom, and everyone that was downstairs," Monica said.

A firefighter was hospitalized for undisclosed injuries.

The fire took two hours to knock down.