Brothers honored for reporting trooper’s house fire

Photos by Bill Powell/The Herald
Caleb and Austin Wren with master Trooper Eric Wiliams


JASPER — Two Jasper brothers whose actions reporting a fire during the holidays saved the home of an Indiana State Police master trooper received Civilian Distinguished Service Awards at the Jasper Post on Wednesday.

Eighth-grader Austin Wren, 13, and kindergartener Caleb Wren, 6, came to the post’s squad room with their parents, Daniel and Lisa Wren, and sister, Lily-Ann, 4, to receive specially designed plaques presented by their neighbor, Master Trooper Eric Williams, a decorated South Zone SWAT team member.

Austin had Caleb accompanying him Nov. 30 while delivering fundraiser items for a school Washington D.C. trip when the brothers saw smoke coming from the Williams’ home at 367 Daisy Lane on Jasper’s west side.

The older brother told Caleb to run home and get his cellphone. The little guy ran so fast he tripped and scraped his knee, but in the meantime, Austin found neighbor Dakota Foote, a Jasper Police Department officer, told him and 911 was called at 5:51 p.m.

The Jasper Volunteer Fire Department halted the kitchen blaze just before flames made it into the attic and destroyed the home. The fire and smoke damage was extensive enough that the Williams family is still likely a month away from moving back home.

Williams was told his house was on fire and he remembers heading home worrying that he would find nothing but ashes and bricks. He learned that, thanks to the neighborhood boys, the things that mattered most, like his late father’s World War II boot camp photo from 1942, his own U.S. Marine Corps boot camp picture and a cookbook honoring an aunt who basically helped raise him, were all saved.

“If you guys had not done that,” Williams told the Wrens, “they said in five or 10 minutes the whole house would’ve been gone. Because you guys did this, we didn’t lose anything that I can’t replace.”

Williams wanted the boys’ plaques — they include a winged insignia that represents the state police SWAT team — to be something the boys could put on the mantle to always remember the time they did the right thing.

The plaques the Wren brothers received include a winged insignia that represents the state police SWAT team.

The master trooper told the boys the public recognition “is to let everyone know that you guys did something really awesome.”

The recognition ceremony also included pizza, a tour and there were state police patches for the brothers, along with passes to the Skate Palace.

Jasper District Commander Lt. Jason Allen assured the Wren brothers that what they did was a big deal and he told them they have great futures ahead of them.

The Wren brothers’ dad is an active duty U.S. Army soldier serving at the Jasper armory. The 17-year veteran’s rank is sergeant first class.

The Indiana Fire Marshal’s Office said the kitchen stove was the heat source for the fire but no one ever determined what became the fuel.

Williams, 41, said his late father, Sgt. James Williams, served in the Aleutian Islands and the European Theatre. His service helped steer the master trooper into the U.S. Marine Corps right out of high school in Grayville, Illinois.

James Williams was 57 when Eric was born. The family patriarch was his catcher when he was a boy, Eric says, and he remembers his pops always catching his throws bare-handed.

After his stint in the service, Eric joined the state police in 2001. He transferred from the Lowell Post to the Jasper Post in 2003 and was promoted to the SWAT team where he is currently assigned in 2006. His awards since then have included a couple of Combat Action Awards for “courageous, at-risk performance of duty.”

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