Home Fire Safety: More Important Than Ever



A room from Doreen’s home that was destroyed by fire.

By Dawn Miller, American Red Cross Volunteer


It was about 12:30 am and a strange noise went off and someone shouted, “Evacuate! Evacuate!” Doreen Eggers knew her husband, Doug, was at work and she was home alone.
She jumped out of bed and ran down the hall. Doreen had purchased a new smoke alarm and the smoke alarm was telling her to evacuate.

She got to the second bedroom door where the doorknob had fallen off the door and a bit of smoke was coming through the hole.  She reached out to touch the door finding it was cold, so she opened the door and smoke came billowing out.


Structural damage left by the fire making the home unlivable.


Doreen says adrenaline and your mind take over, “When the time comes you just worry about getting yourself out and your family.”

She turned around and grabbed her phone, keys and most importantly her two dogs, a Chihuahua and Shih Tzu. After she corralled the dogs outside she called 9-1-1.

The police and fire departments were on the scene quickly. As she talked with them she realized her feet were cold on the December ground. She had no shoes. Doreen remembers seeing her purse and shoes sitting right there but it all happened so fast she couldn’t grab everything.

A neighbor lent her slippers and another let them come inside to talk with the police department and the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross was able to support with resources and information on what to do next.

The Fire Department’s preliminary inspection indicated an electrical fire. Doreen says much was lost in the fire including large furniture and the home was unlivable.


The damage left by the fire in a bedroom of the home.

She remembers thinking about losing everything she worked hard for but that material things can be replaced. “You really do feel lucky to be out. You do feel lucky to be alive. That’s the most I’m thankful for- the dogs and I got out. The rest of the stuff can be replaced,” she says.

Doreen and Doug stayed with a neighbor and were able to find another rental home that allowed pets just 4 days later. Doreen says many came to help them get settled in to their new home and gave donations of clothing, furniture and other help. “It makes me want to give more after seeing how many people with their big hearts gave us. They didn’t have a lot to give either but they gave.  It meant a lot to me and makes me want to do more than I did before,” says Doreen.


The fire so hot it melted the window panes.

She wants to encourage others to check their alarms to make sure they are working. She had purchased a new carbon monoxide detector because she had concerns about the furnace and it also included a smoke alarm. The new alarm is what got her out of the house. She also says it is very important to have an escape plan because it all happens so fast.

Doreen says many think it won’t happen to them but it’s important to have a working smoke alarm. “If I had not gotten that I would not be here. It really is true. If you don’t have a working alarm you are not going to be here. And a fire can happen anywhere.”


The American Red Cross of Northeast Wisconsin will be holding a county-wide Home Fire Rally in Brown County on April 23, 2016.  The event will kick off at Ashwaubenon High School starting at 8am.  Teams of 3 each, installer, safety educator & documenter, will then be out until 1000 smoke alarms are installed or 4pm, whichever comes first.

If you or someone you know would like to be a part of this life-saving event, the Red Cross is still looking for more volunteers to sign up at http://www.redcross.org/browncounty.  Register by April 21st.

Or if you or someone you know are in need of smoke alarms, go to http://www.getasmokealarm.org or call toll free at 888-231-3590 to have a FREE smoke alarm installed.  The Red Cross will need to know the name, address  & phone number. Also, by request, there are some bed shaker alarms for people that are deaf. 

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