New Paltz teen rescues child, two dogs from house fire

New Paltz High School senior Madelynn Haynes (right) is pictured with ten-year old Ava Rose Savino and Marley and Murphy. A fire started in the house while Madelynn was babysitting and she was able to get Ava and the dogs out safely. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

As a longtime emergency room nurse, Maria Savino is no stranger to crisis. But handling an emergency professionally and dealing with one in your own life are two different things. In the middle of a routine overnight shift on October 14 at Kingston’s HealthAlliance Hospital, Savino got that devastating late-night phone call that nobody ever anticipates getting: she learned that her home in New Paltz had been gutted by fire.

The good news was that her ten-year-old daughter, Ava, and the two family dogs were safe. All were evacuated from the burning house by quick-witted 17-year-old Madelynn Haynes, the family’s babysitter since June.


“She’s been an extension of our family,” Savino says. “She interacts so well with my daughter, she takes care of my dogs… she takes care of everybody. Madelynn is definitely the hero here. I’m so glad that she was there and she was able to stay so calm.”

The New Paltz Fire Department was on the scene from just before midnight until 3:05 a.m. They were assisted by Modena Fire and Rescue, Tillson Fire Department, Rifton Fire Department and Highland Fire District.

Most of the family’s belongings are gone, including precious photos of Ava as a baby. And while the house should eventually be recoverable, it is not currently habitable, and won’t be for some time. Until the Savinos can rebuild, they’re staying in a hotel and looking for a rental comparable to their former home; one that will accept dogs.

Savino’s supervisor at the hospital, Kim Lindquist, has set up a GoFundMe campaign for the family. Donations can be submitted at

The fallout from the fire “seems insurmountable,” writes Lindquist on the GoFundMe page. “This campaign has been created to ease the burdens and challenges that Maria is facing. I hope this will provide a new sense of hope and security for this family as they begin the long process of rebuilding. For those willing and able to contribute to their cause, it is sincerely appreciated.”

“I just hope that people will help and support Maria and Ava until they get their house back and get their life back,” says Madelynn Haynes. The New Paltz High School senior says that in getting Ava out of the house that night, and rescuing the dogs, she acted on instinct. When smoke began pouring into the house through a vent and she saw flames on the roof, Haynes quickly got Ava outside first and then the dogs, which was a challenge because they didn’t understand what was going on and were resistant to leaving. It didn’t help that there was no power and it was hard to see through the smoke in the dark. Once outside, passers-by who saw the fire called 911.

Haynes has been showered with praise for her actions by a grateful Maria and Ava. And even though she went through a traumatic experience herself, her concerns are all with them. Now that some time has passed, she says “small, little things” remind her of that night. Going to school a few days after the fire and not having a paper to turn in that had been written and left in her book bag in the burning house gave her one of those moments where it really sunk in what had happened. “My stuff is insignificant compared to the things that Ava and Maria lost in the fire, but just not having the paper be there made me realize all the things they lost. I can’t imagine being Maria and losing so much. It just hits you right in the heart.”