When 10-year-old AJ Lindblad looked out his dining room window on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 11, he saw his neighbor’s shed ablaze. He and two of his sisters were home alone while their parents, David and Amy Lindblad, were running errands in Fargo, North Dakota.
The Wolverton, Minnesota, youth took action without hesitation. Despite his sisters’ protests, he bundled up to brave the -21 degree temperature, and raced over to notify his neighbors.
AJ Lindblad knew the neighbors' family dog, Layla, was inside the burning shed, which acted as a heated kennel. Flames were coming out of the structure, but he was determined to save the pet, David Lindblad said. AJ Lindblad ran in, rescued her and placed her in his neighbors’ garage.
After saving Layla, AJ Lindblad walked back to his home, Wilkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Darlene Reddy said.
“He says, ‘There was really nothing else I could do and it was cold out,” so he says he went home!” Reddy said.
When AJ Lindblad returned, the children called their parents, but David Lindblad said they didn’t learn what their son had done until they got home, and even then, AJ Lindblad barely said anything about his efforts. David Lindblad and his wife assumed Layla died in the fire.
“He likes animals. We got our own dog, and the neighbors have had that dog for a few years,” David Lindblad said.
AJ Lindblad would frequently play with the neighbors' children, and Layla would join in. David Lindblad thinks his son’s attachment to the dog and his love for their own dog, Henry, was partly behind his heroic actions that night, he said.
Reddy and Deputy Brandon Spanswick, responded to the neighbors’ 911 call, along with the Sabin, Minnesota, Fire Department and the Christine, North Dakota, Fire Department. The neighbors told Reddy and Spanswick the 10-year-old was responsible for saving their dog. Although the shed was a total loss, Reddy said the neighbors were happy Layla made it out safely.
“I’m an animal lover, so when I heard he went over there, I almost started to cry,” Reddy said. “It’s like, you do realize how dangerous that is, right? The gentleman who was the dog owner said he was very grateful, it would’ve been way more devastating had they lost the family pet that night too.”
After the situation was under control, Reddy said she knocked on the Lindblads’ door. The youth couldn't understand why his actions were receiving so much attention, Reddy said.
She called Sheriff Rick Fiedler that night and asked if they could present AJ Lindblad with a Life Saving Award. Fiedler readily agreed, and Reddy and Spanswick hand-delivered the award to the Lindblads’ home Thursday, Feb. 18.
Lindblad is a fourth grader at Breckenridge Elementary School. His homeroom teacher, Eric Erlandson, describes him as a humble, laid-back child. While AJ Lindblad casually mentioned the fire to his classmates, Erlandson said he never said anything about receiving an award.
As Erlandson pressed his student for more details, he discovered the shed burnt to the ground and that flames were coming out of it as AJ Lindblad went inside to save Layla. Erlandson originally assumed it was a small fire, perhaps with a little smoke.
“He’s just pretty casual about it, and I’m thinking that’s a pretty big deal,” Erlandson said.
AJ Lindblad hasn’t talked much about the night of the fire or the recognition he received since, David Lindblad said, but they did hang the Life Saving Award on their fridge.
The night of the fire, AJ Lindblad seemed more excited about getting a sticker from the deputies than about the evening’s events, Reddy laughed. She said it seemed like a normal reaction for the youth. His father agrees.
“It was pretty much like an everyday thing, he would do it again I think,” David Lindblad said.