Nathaniel Stocks was prepared when a fire broke out in his Phelan, California, home on Saturday, since he had just visited the San Bernardino County Fire Department three days prior with his kindergarten class.
"They taught us how to stop, drop and roll on the field trip and I also learned that you have to crawl on the ground beneath the fire," Nathaniel told TODAY.com.
As soon as the 5-year-old boy smelled fire at around 1 a.m., he grabbed his cat, Aurora Mitten, and LeapFrog tablet and immediately went to wake up his grandma, Kimberly Racliss. It took a few tries and lots of yelling "Nanny, there's a fire!" to finally get her up, but when he did, they ran out of the house together.
"Nathaniel had the good sense to remain calm and come to me," Racliss, 50, told TODAY.com. "I wouldn't have made it out alive without him."
When Racliss realized their Chihuahua, Tinkerbell Marie, was still trapped in the house, she was about to go back in to rescue her when Nathaniel stopped her.
"I told her that you can't go into a burning house, you have to wait for the firefighters to get here," Nathaniel said.
When they arrived about seven minutes later, they went to go save Tinkerbell, who was found hidden behind a bathroom door, scared and shaking. They also discovered that the fire started from a space heater in Nathaniel's room.
Nathaniel and his parents live with his grandma full-time, but his father, Landon Gilbert, was out of town on a business trip and his mom, Brianna Stocks, was on her way to Mammoth Mountain with her siblings when she got the call and turned right around. The firefighters were still there when she got back and remembered Nathaniel from the class trip.
They were so impressed by how Nathaniel handled the situation that they invited him to come by the fire department Monday to give him a plaque, hat, badge and teddy bear.
While the family lost most of their belongings in the fire and are living in a recreational vehicle on the property until the house is livable again, they're so grateful for the people in their community who have been bringing over food, clothes and toys.
"Nathaniel has more clothes and toys than he had before," Stocks, who works as a sales manager at a local hotel, told TODAY.com.
The little boy hopes to grow up to be a firefighter one day and hasn't taken off his new hat and badge since he got them.
"He's always been a rule follower, but for him to learn all that on Thursday and then put it to use to save my life, his life and our pets' lives is just unbelievable," Racliss said. "He's my hero."