When 5-year-old Daniel Benes saw the smoke coming from the family room of his Audubon Road home on the evening of Feb. 26, he knew just what to do.

Yelling for his mom, Gina, to call 911, Daniel’s quick action helped four people -including his mom; his 2-year-old brother, Ryan; and his 87-year-old grandfather, Raymond Benes – escape the quick-moving blaze.

His bed-ridden grandmother, Dolores Benes, died in the fire, but family members who escaped knew Daniel’s actions saved them.

“Our little Danny is our hero,” Gina Benes said at the time.

Monday night at the Riverside village board meeting, that designation became official. Trustee James Reynolds read a proclamation commending Daniel, “who performed heroically and exhibited exceptional skills” in alerting his family to the fire.

Reynolds also handed out commendations to 32 village emergency personnel, including police officers, an auxiliary officer, firefighters, paramedics and a dispatcher for their actions in fighting the fire and attempting to rescue Dolores Benes. Several of those who went inside the burning building ended up being treated for smoke inhalation at Loyola Medical Center.

Daniel Benes didn’t say anything to the overflow audience that crowded in the board meeting room inside the Riverside Township Hall. That’s not a surprise, according to Gina Benes.

“For him it’s hard,” she said. “He doesn’t want to talk about it at all.”

Daniel’s father, Ken Benes thanked the village for its support.

“Thanks for what they tried to do and what they did,” he said. “I don’t have any words for the support we had from the whole community and what they did to help us.”

Afterward, Ken Benes said the event, where he got to meet the men and women who helped fight the fire in February, served to add a sense of finality.

“To meet them personally, it was nice to put a name with a face, to shake their hands and say thank you,” Ken Benes said.

The future of the family home is still up in the air. While Ken and his father have a desire to rehabilitate the home, it will cost the family upwards of $170,000, according to Gina Benes. Others in the family believe they should sell the property, she said.

In the meantime, Gina, Ken and their children are staying with Gina’s family in Brookfield, while Raymond Benes is living with his son, Ray Jr., in the south suburbs.

Most immediately, the family will face a tough Mother’s Day next month. Sunday, May 10 would have been Dolores Benes’ 86th birthday.