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A Big and Little Hero

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On this date in 1992, the front page of the Bismarck Tribune featured a spunky 11-year-old who used advice from the TV show “Rescue 911” to save three lives. Kristin Erck was walking home from school in Bismarck when she heard someone yell “Help me! Help me!” Kristin saw smoke billowing out of a nearby mobile home. Inspired by her favorite TV show, Kristin looked for a passing motorist to ask for help. Seeing none, she ran into the home and found three-year-old Jessie Kuntz in the kitchen near flames. Kristin led the little boy outside and then ran to a neighboring home and pounded on the door. This was the home of Patty Flanigan, 25, a fry cook at McDonalds.

Patty called 9-1-1 then dashed into the burning home. Little Jessie had wondered back inside! Patty found 87-year-old Ida Hoff and her two great-grandsons, three-year-old Jessie and one-year old Justin. Patty led the three outside. Captain Darol Hopfauf of the Bismarck Fire Department announced, “It appears as if we have a big hero and a little hero.” The quick thinking and bravery of Kristina and Patty saved three lives. The home was a total loss.

In August 1992, Patty Flanigan and Kristin Erck received Lifesaver awards from the State Safety Council. Due to their bravery little Jessie and Justin were able to grow up, and Ida lived on to the age of 95.

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa


Author Unknown, “Ida Hoff,” The Bismarck Tribune, October 8, 1999, pg. 11A.

Bullers, Finn, “Litt, Big Heroes Save 3 From Fire,” The Bismarck Tribune, February 7, 1992, pg. 1A.

Smith, Frederic, “BSC Requests Greenway Site,” The Bismarck Tribune, August 19, 1992, pg. B1.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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