Every time Dan hears about another family affected by a house fire, his mind takes him back to a day in March 2017, when his family had their own unimaginable experience. Dan and his wife were both at work and their three daughters were at school. Late-morning, their son was upstairs at home, getting ready for work, when he smelled smoke. He ran to the main floor to investigate and was headed for the fire extinguisher, when he realized the entire home was quickly filling with dense smoke. He ran out of the house and called 911.

As the fire crews worked to put out the blaze, Dan and his wife were making their way home. Standing out on their lawn on a chilly March day, they began to realize how lucky they were – had the fire started hours earlier when they were all sleeping, it’s likely none of them would have made it out alive. At the same time, it was quickly sinking in that all they had were the clothes they were wearing and little else. They were also coping with the sudden loss of their three cats who did not make it out of their home.

“At just the right time, a Red Cross volunteer approached us. We had noticed their van earlier and they seemed to know when our minds were starting to ask “what now?” said Dan. “Like many others, we’d never considered what we might do in the hours and days that follow a house fire. Before we could begin to consider next steps, they approached us and began to lead us through the process.”

Although Dan and his wife have several grown children, they all live in small apartments and weren’t able to accommodate their large family.

They were very grateful when they learned that the Red Cross could provide accommodation for them for the first night. Dan said, “What we found most valuable, were the gift cards they provided for us to be able to purchase meals, groceries and some clothes. Having a change of clothes and some meals taken care of helped to ease our stress as we started to figure out our next steps. We had a place to stay and no one was hungry – it was a huge weight off our shoulders.” Just over a year later, everyone is doing well. They are back in their beloved home – and in many ways, it’s even better than it was before.
The card from Dan's brother sits on a fire-damaged counter
No stranger to tragedy, Dan knows the value of life. Nearly 30 years ago, days before Dan’s birthday, his brother was in a car accident. Dan’s birthday card, mailed several days before the accident, arrived as they were preparing for his brother’s funeral. Lost in a house move years ago, Dan hadn’t been able to find the card for decades.

Following the fire, as Dan sifted through boxes of salvaged possessions, he found the card. Miraculously, it was untouched by the fire.

Dan says, “While so much was taken away from us that day, we were reminded of the importance of family and of the generosity of our community. Thank you to the Red Cross volunteers and so many others who helped our family through a difficult time.”