Tree-mendous effort

Ranson 4-year-old saves the day – and the Christmas display

RANSON — This Christmas season, when you stop to admire the beauty of Ranson’s Christmas tree at Lancaster Circle, thank Jude Burlett.

[cleeng_content id="836782895" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]In mid-October, as 4-year-old Jude and his father Greg, were sitting on a bench at the Circle enjoying a Dairy Queen ice cream, Jude smelled smoke.

Jude Burlett, 4, sits under the Christmas tree at Lancaster Circle in Ranson. In November, Jude was honored by Ranson officials for having discovered a fire burning in a mulch pile beneath the tree.

Jude Burlett, 4, sits under the Christmas tree at Lancaster Circle in Ranson. In November, Jude was honored by Ranson officials for having discovered a fire burning in a mulch pile beneath the tree.

“We both kept smelling something,” Greg Burlett said. “Then he turned and said, ‘Daddy, there’s a fire behind us.”

Four of them, actually. Burning in a mulch pile just across the walkway from the town’s nearly 60-foot evergreen that’s lit each year to inaugurate the Christmas season in Ranson.

Decades ago, Christmas trees were sold from a small lot inside the Lancaster Circle, said Ranson Community Development Director David Mills. The trees were sold to raise funds for parks and playgrounds in Ranson, and Mills said he thinks that particular tree might have been planted around that time. A few years back, the tree was ailing and had to be treated. A photograph of the downtown from 1945 shows a nearly-barren Circle dotted with a few small trees. In recent years, the beautification of the Circle has been a source of pride for residents. It’s the site of plaques to both military veterans and fallen police and firefighters, as well as to longtime civil rights leader, the Rev. Ernest Baltimore.

Burlett said he tried stomping out the fires but they proved too stubborn. So they walked over to Independent Fire Company to alert firefighters.

“The whole mulch bed was on fire,” Burlett said. “I guess they had been burning too long.”

Firefighters initially tried to subdue the fire with hand pumps but even that didn’t work. It took unspooling some hoses from an engine that firefighters brought to the scene.

Burlett said firefighters told him the fires were caused by some discarded cigarettes. He said a firefighter called Jude a hero.

“He said, ‘You’ve saved the town Christmas tree,” Burlett said.

Being a part of the town’s Christmas celebration has been a big deal for Jude. He can’t wait for Christmas.

“Every morning, I got downstairs to look at the tree,” he said. “It soon will be Christmas.”

“We are looking forward to it,” said Burlett, 43. “Our house is decorated. Jude loves Christmas. He loves decorating for the holidays.”

Jude, who dressed as Spiderman last year for Halloween, this year went trick or treating as a firefighter. Burlett said Jude told him that’s what he wanted to be when he grew up.

In November, Jude was presented with a special Outstanding Safety Awareness Award by the Ranson City Council for his quick thinking. And earlier this month, he was invited to the stage by Mayor David Hamill to take part in the annual lighting of the Christmas tree he helped save.

Hamill called Jude a gentleman.

“On introducing himself, he said, ‘It’s a pleasure to meet you sir,’” Hamill said. “How refreshing to hear such sincerity from a child his age. You could tell by the support he received from all of his neighbors attending the meeting that he has a special place in their hearts. To me, all children are special but this little guy is an obvious treasure for his family and his friends.

“We hope to see more of him and children like him growing up in our community. I am certain his parents are very proud of him as are we,” Hamill said.

Burlett said Jude was honored to meet the town’s mayor. It’s even caused him to re-think his career ambitions.

“Now he wants to be mayor,” Burlett said.

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