Roy Biggerstaff isn't comfortable being called a hero, but he knows he saved his mother's life.
"It was nothing big I did," said the 13-year-old George Fox Middle School student. "I just smelled smoke."
The Pasadena youth was awarded the Josh Soth Courage Award at a school assembly Monday for saving his mother from a March 24 electrical fire that almost destroyed their home.
His mother, Jane Nolan, said Roy was simply in the right place at the right time.
After hurting his hand in a fall, Roy stayed home from school one Friday in March to visit his doctor.
Ms. Nolan, who works the midnight night shift at a glass company in Baltimore, had taken a shower and was lying across the bed about 1:30 p.m. when Roy told her he had seen and smelled smoke in their kitchen.
"I have sinus problems, and I can't smell stuff a lot, but I smelled that smoke really bad," he recalled.
Roy said he checked the stove and opened the windows to air the kitchen out but that when he went into the kitchen again a few minutes later, he still smelled smoke.
"I heard the buzzer on the dryer, and I saw something orange, sparks," coming from behind the dryer, he said. He went and got his mother.
She ordered Roy to a bar down the street after he called 911, and she waited outside for firefighters to arrive.
She said that if Roy hadn't been home that day, she probably would have been asleep.
"I always throw clothes in the dryer and go to bed," said Ms. Nolan. "Had I been asleep, I never would have been able to get out of there. By the time I would have smelled smoke, the whole kitchen would have been up in flames. I was just real lucky he was here that day."
Since the fire, Roy and his mother have been living with a neighbor, wearing borrowed clothes and looking for a new home. They lost almost everything, but even through the tough times, Roy has managed to keep up his grades.
"He was on the honor roll all year," said Cynthia Dean, Roy's guidance counselor. This year has been a struggle for the youth because he was new to the school, she said, adding, "He's just shown courage all the way around."
The Josh Soth Courage Award was created this year in memory of a Pasadena youth who attended George Fox in the sixth and seventh grades and died of leukemia in April.
"One of the many things he was concerned about is that his friends would forget him," said Kathy Soth, whose son was diagnosed at age 5.
Roy said that although he was glad to receive the award, he was embarrassed and surprised when teachers called him before the entire school Monday.
"I thought everybody had forgotten about it," he said.