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Teen Hero Honored by County

Fairfax County recognizes teen who saved 4-year-old neighbor from an exploding shed

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 4-year-old 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 4-year-old brothers who live down the street from Ashley 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. 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, from which thick, black smoke was billowing.

Ashley was able to locate the child through his cries and pull him to safety. His clothing was aflame, so she extinguished the fire with her feet and then with her bare hands. In the process she received burns to her hands, which 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, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, presented Ashley with a plaque of recognition at the most recent Board meeting. He spoke on behalf of Dranesville supervisor Joan DuBois, who was unable to attend the meeting. “This is an extraordinary story,” said Connolly. Ashley, he said, showed “total disregard for her own safety by putting herself in harm’s way. Her actions prevented further injury.”

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

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

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

The boys’ grandfather, Arthur Lutz, said that they are making sound medical progress and the family is optimistic 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, Ashley is scheduled to be honored by the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department on June 7 at her high school Marshall. She will be presented with a valor, life-saving award, according to the Department’s public information officer 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 her. NBC Universal Studios is currently attempting to recruit her to be a part of a new television show called “Home Delivery,” which features local heroes and is expected to begin airing in September - just when the Lutz boys might return. Ashley is a quiet person who is unsure of whether to step into the spotlight. “She’s a little nervous about it. She hasn’t made up her mind,” said Ashley’s mother, Virginia Ritz.