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County Honors Marshall Hero

Fairfax County recognizes teen who saved four-year-old neighbor from an exploding shed.

<bt>Marshall High School student Ashley Ritz was honored Monday by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for her heroic actions last month that are credited with helping to save the life of a young boy. Ritz, who lives in Pimmit Hills, pulled a four-year-old boy from a burning shed that had exploded. In the process, she received burns to her hands from extinguishing the child’s flaming clothing.

Devon and Tyler Lutz are four-year-old brothers who live down the street from Ritz on Leonard Road. She has known and helped care for the two boys for years.

According to Ritz, she was walking home from the bus stop after school on April 21 when she stopped to talk to the boys' mother outside their home. They heard a loud explosion and both ran to the rear of the house immediately. Tyler was not in the shed at that point and his mother was able to give him assistance. Devon however, was trapped inside the burning shed which was billowing thick, black smoke.

Ritz was able to locate the child through his cries and pull him to safety. His clothing was aflame so she attempted to extinguish the fire with her feet and then her bare hands. In the process, she received burns to her hands that required medical attention.

Investigators are still trying to determine exactly what happened inside the shed that caused it to explode without warning. Both children are now at Shriners Hospital in Boston where they are being treated for burns.

GERRY CONNOLLY (D), chairman of the board of supervisors, presented Ritz with her plaque of recognition at last Monday's board meeting. He spoke on behalf of Supervisor Joan DuBois (R-Dranesville) who was unable to attend the meeting. “This is an extraordinary story,” said Connolly. Ritz, he said, showed “total disregard for her own safety by putting herself in harm's way. Her actions prevented further injury.”

Connolly summed up by saying, “All of Fairfax County is proud of you.”

At the ceremony, Ritz was flanked by her parents, siblings, grandparents, and a representative of the Lutz family.

Ritz said that while she appreciates the award, she would have preferred never to have been in the situation. “The boys are doing fine. I just hope they come home soon and will be OK,” said Ritz.

The boys' grandfather, Arthur Lutz, said that they are making sound medical progress and the family is optimistic that they will be home soon. “They’re getting better. Basically, they are out of critical condition and in guarded condition now,” said Lutz.

“We’ve been told [they could return] by September, but that’s just a guess,” said Lutz. In the interim, a group called Aluminum Cans for Burn Victims, which raises funds through recycling cans, is assisting the family with lodging expenses while they are in Boston. Lutz's wife, the children’s grandmother, is able to stay with them as they heal because of the group's donations. “She has to be at the hospital a good number of hours a day,” said Lutz.

IN ADDITION to the recognition by the board of supervisors and another honor from the school, Ritz is scheduled to be honored by the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department on June 7, at her high school. She will be presented with a valor, life saving award, according to the departments Public Information Office Dan Schmidt. “It was a selfless act. Most people, when confronted with that, think twice. Ashley didn’t think twice,” said Schmidt.

Hollywood is also calling Ritz. NBC Universal Studios is currently attempting to recruit Ritz to be a part of a new television show called “Home Delivery” that features local heroes and is expected to begin airing in September — the same time as the Lutz boys might return. Ritz is a quiet person who is unsure of whether to step into the spotlight. “She’s a little nervous about. She hasn’t made up her mind,” said Ashley’s mother Virginia Ritz.