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9-year-old in recovery after deputies rescue him from burning Seffner house

Owen Ares suffered from burns and smoke inhalation. He is recovering in the ICU, his family said.

SEFFNER, Fla. — 9-year-old boy Owen Ares is recovering at Tampa General Hospital after being rescued from a house fire Thursday night in Seffner.

Karen McGinnis, his mother, told reporters at a news conference Friday afternoon that her son suffered second-degree burns on his face and right arm from the fire, along with smoke inhalation.

The child is currently "heavily" sedated and comfortable, hooked up to a ventilator, while hospital staff work to clean the wounds, McGinnis said.

Owen's father, Chris Ares, says the 9-year-old could possibly get off the ventilator by Tuesday.

"[Owen] is my little hero, my North Star, he's my fighter," she said. "I've taught him to fight and in fact, sometimes he fights too much."

Reliving the night two Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office deputies, Deputy Kevin Reich and Deputy Alexander Maldonado, pulled Owen out of the smoke-filled bedroom through a window, McGinnis says she was praying on her knees in the grass when she heard someone say, "We got him!"

The family was originally alerted of the fire when McGinnis' boyfriend, Roy Vaughn, who was sleeping on the couch, woke up and saw flames. After successfully getting the family dog out, McGinnis said she tried to use a chair outside to shatter the bedroom window where Owen was.

While she was trying to break the window, Owen was inside the room screaming for help, the mother explains. It was only a few seconds later when the deputies arrived on the scene.

In a press conference, Deputy Alexander Maldonado explained what was on his mind during those tense moments. 

"The biggest thing was probably, we were both just thinking, we have to get this child out of the house. That's what was going through our minds," said Maldonado.

Called a hero, Maldonado brushed it off, saying, "We were just doing our jobs, sir." 

Owen's father Chris Ares disagrees, saying, "Heroes need to be recognized. These guys were heroes. If it wasn't for them, my son would be dead, like within minutes he wouldn't have made it."

Deputies responded to the fire at 10:48 p.m. when they found the home was "fully engulfed in flames," the sheriff's office said in a news release. People standing outside in the yard were yelling to law enforcement that a child was still inside, which prompted deputies to enter the house.

Deputies say they broke a window at the front of the house and found Owen on the floor. This was when Deputies Kevin Reich and Alexander Maldonado told him to come closer to the window.

Body camera video of the dramatic rescue was released earlier Thursday.

As the boy moved closer, the two deputies were able to grab him and pull him out the window, carrying him to safety, according to the sheriff's office. They stayed with him until paramedics with the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue arrived minutes later. 

"Owen was vigilant, and he didn't give up. He was moving and he was trying to find his way out," McGinnis explains.

Neither of the deputies were injured during the incident. McGinnis says she would like to meet with the two deputies who helped save her son's life.

"I could not be more proud of the quick actions and bravery these deputies displayed, never giving up until they were able to pull the child to safety. It is because of their heroism that this young boy made it out alive," Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement. 

"Law enforcement officers are often the first to respond to any emergency scene, so we must always be ready to jump in and help. These deputies never hesitated. They are true examples of what it means to be a hero."

The house, which was 110 years old, is a total loss, McGinnis said. The family also lost multiple cars.

Firefighters say they had the flames under control within 16 minutes. 

According to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, the homeowner was using his outdoor fire pit earlier Thursday evening. 

"He went inside the home and fell asleep. The illumination of the flames outside of his home awoke him. When he exited the house, he observed flames on the wooden deck that bordered the fire pit. He also saw the wall of the adjacent garage was on fire," authorities wrote in a statement. "Before reporting the fire to 911, he attempted to extinguish the blaze using a garden hose, which proved unsuccessful. The fire rapidly consumed most of the garage and shortly ignited the wood-constructed home. The investigation is still ongoing to determine the cause of the fire."

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