SUNRISE BEACH — While he might have been “doing his duty” when he woke a family of four early one morning as a fire attacked their home, Sunrise Beach council members didn’t necessarily see it that way when they presented Sgt. Clay Keen with a certificate of heroism for those actions.
“Your actions have resulted in (the family) having a very Merry Christmas,” Mayor Pat Frain said to Kleen after honoring him during a Dec. 20 council meeting.
IN PHOTO: Sunrise Beach Mayor Pat Frain (right) presents Sunrise Beach Police Sgt. Clay Kleen with a Certificate of Appreciation and Heroism during a Dec. 21 council meeting. Officials say Kleen’s actions in the early morning hours of Dec. 4 saved the lives of a family of four — including two children. Kleen saw a home in the 100 block of Hi View on fire and banged on the door, waking the family and helping them escape the blaze. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton
On Dec. 4, Kleen was on patrol in Sunrise Beach about 2 a.m. when he noticed a blaze on the side of Keli and Justin Schlueter’s home in the 100 block of Hi View. The officer ran to the door and began knocking.
The family’s smoke detectors weren’t operating, so it was Kleen’s actions that woke them from their slumber, Sunrise Beach Fire Chief Jim Miiller told The Picayune.
Kleen helped the family, which includes two children ages 7 and 2, get out of the home. Once the mother and children were safe and the fire department notified, the officer helped the father go back and get the children’s kittens out of the residence.
Councilman and volunteer fire department member Lou Henson credited Kleen with saving those lives.
“Four minutes, five minutes longer and that house would have been gone,” he said. “The comment that lives were saved that night was true.”
More than 20 members of the Sunrise Beach Volunteer Fire Department attended the meeting. When Kleen had his chanced to speak, he also thanked the volunteers.
“I want to recognized the fire department on the rapid response,” he said. “It’s your neighbors, your friends that you’re helping.”
The Schlueters were not in attendance for Kleen’s honor, but Keli Schlueter previously described the officer as her family’s “angel.”
For more on the fire and the family’s perspective, go here.