Home Fire: You Never Think It Can Happen

Fire Survivor Warns it Can Happen

By Dawn Miller, American Red Cross Volunteer

Flames were shooting out of windows just 10 ft from his apartment after Paul Hajny made it outside and was looking back at his apartment building. “That’s when it really got real,” says Paul.


The Green Bay Fire Department and American Red Cross were on the scene quickly.

Just moments before, he was in his apartment watching T.V. with his fiancée, Jenna, and his roommate at the time. The smell of something like burning bacon and the noise of a fire alarm were nuisance to the relaxing evening. “I just thought it was someone cooking,” says Paul.

When the alarm didn’t stop making noise, Paul got up to see what was going on. When he opened the door smoke, just poured into the apartment. “I closed the door and we grabbed our cats and backpacks,” says Paul.

It all happened fast and they got out of the building quickly. Looking at the flames, Paul says he realized how important smoke alarms are. “Every house, every apartment should have one,” says Paul.

The Fire Department was on scene right away and doused the apartment buildings, putting out the fire. The residents of the six-unit apartment, including Paul and his roommate, were displaced because of damage. The building was found to be beyond repair and was demolished shortly after.


Fire Damage was extensive and tenants had to find alternate housing.

The American Red Cross was also on the scene right away providing comfort and covering basic needs. Paul says they were calm and supportive in a very high stress and high trauma event for the residents. “They took care of all physical and emotional needs,” says Paul

“They thought of everything,” says Paul. “I could tell it wasn’t their first rodeo and I could sense that, which made me calmer.”

Along with lodging options and food, blankets made by volunteers were also provided.  “It was this wonderful handmade quilt and I still have it hanging in my living room,” says Paul.

5 years later, Paul and Jenna are now married. They are now homeowners and soon to be parents who are conscious of being prepared in the event of a fire. He says they have carbon monoxide detectors/smoke alarms along with fire extinguishers in each room. “It has definitely changed my mindset.”

“I never thought it would happen but it happened,” says Paul.

Paul encourages others to check alarms and if residents are in need of an alarm to visit getasmokealarm.org to request an alarm.    “We never have enough time but if someone is willing to help,” says Paul “Why wouldn’t you want to help your family?”

If you or someone you know are in need of smoke alarms, go tohttp://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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