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Home Fire Survivors Tell Red Cross Stories of Help and Hope

“You never expect that you are going to leave and come home to find that your house is gone,” said Jeff Klonowski from Hitterdal, Minnesota.

Every eight minutes, the American Red Cross responds to a home fire or other disaster. While these disasters rarely make headlines, the tragedy is no less devastating to those affected. Thankfully, with the assistance of the Red Cross, families like the Klonowskis are not alone in their hour of need.

Red Cross Supports Family after Fire

“They [the Red Cross] provided us with blankets right away – it was a cold day,” said Klonowski. “They made sure that we had something to eat, somewhere to go that night to sleep. They were showing up with toys for my kid. Every toy he had was burnt.”

Help from the Red Cross doesn’t end after the smoke clears. The Red Cross supports home fire victims every step of the way, from the scene of the fire to weeks and months later.

“One night in particular a lady called me at 7:30 at night to let me know that she found out some tips on some furniture for me. I was thinking to myself, ‘Boy, that’s awful late to be working.’ And I said they must be paying you overtime and that’s when I found out she was nothing but a volunteer,” said Klonowski.

Whether it is a young millennial across the country who texts a $10 Disaster Relief donation or a retired volunteer who calls after hours to check on a home fire victim, each gesture of generosity and compassion plays a significant role to help those in need get back on their feet. Today, the Klonowski family is in a new house thanks in part to the donors and volunteers that make the work of the Red Cross possible.

Take 4 Fire Safety Steps Today

Home fire stories like the Klonowskis help to remind us of the importance of fire safety. Heating sources are the second leading cause of home fire deaths, and fatal home fires increase during the winter months. In addition, the National Fire Protection Association states that half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February.

Take steps today that increase the chances of you and your loved ones surviving a fire:

  • Install smoke alarms. At a minimum, put one on every level of the home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms. If they don’t work, replace them.
  • Make a fire escape plan. Make sure that everyone in the family knows how to get out of every room and how to get out of the home in less than two minutes.
  • Practice that plan. What’s the household’s escape time?
  • On average, the Red Cross helps more people after home fires than all other disasters combined. To help combat this threat, the Red Cross announced a new national campaign this past October to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by as much as 25 percent over the next five years. In just the past few months, the Red Cross has already reached more than 36,000 people by installing more than 21,000 smoke alarms.

    During the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, many Red Cross chapters across the country plan to enlist volunteers to distribute information and install free smoke alarms to residents in high-risk areas. Contact your local chapter to volunteer in your community.

    You Can Help Home Fire Victims

    “You always wonder when you donate money to them [the Red Cross], is it really going to go to help somebody?” said Klonowski. “And this proved in our life, it definitely did.”

    You can help people affected by disasters like home fires and countless other crises by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

    About the American Red Cross:

    The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.

    Donate Now

    Support all the urgent humanitarian needs of the American Red Cross.

    $10.00 is the minimum online donation amount. All donations are tax deductible.