Jeff Jennings and his family had gone to sleep that chilly November night in Overland Park, Kansas when suddenly his 11-year-old grandson Jacob started running through the house yelling, “The house is on fire, we’ve got to get out of here.”
At first, Jeff thought that maybe he was dreaming, but then the smoke alarm went off and he realized that it wasn’t a dream.
Thanks to Jacob’s early warning, the family, including Jeff and his wife, two other grandchildren, two dogs, a cat and a pet rat got out of the two-story house without injury.
At a recent monthly meeting in St. Joseph, Missouri of the Greater Kansas City and Northwest Missouri Chapter, Jeff and Jacob showed up to thank the volunteers and express their appreciation for the help they received from the Red Cross.
It all started, Jeff said, when he was having trouble getting his smoker started at about 3 a.m. on November 18 to cook a brisket for a party for former co-workers. He used his wet-dry vacuum to clean out some of the pellets in the smoker that was outside near the house.
“Some of the pellets weren't in good shape, so I was trying to clean those out. Apparently when I restarted it, after a couple times, I think an ember got into my wet-dry vac and that's when I think it took off," he said.
He said the fire started about 6 a.m. and spread to the back of the house, up the exterior to the attic. The fire broke the window in Jacob’s bedroom, waking him up. He looked out and saw the flames and alerted everyone else in the house.
The family took refuge against the 20-degree temperature in their car while firefighters doused the blaze that melted the siding on the home and burned out some of the rooms.
Firefighters called the Red Cross to help the family with their immediate needs like finding a place to stay. Jeff said the family has found temporary housing while their home is being repaired.
Responding to home fires and helping those in need is something that Disaster Action Team (DAT) members do on a regular basis.
Since July 1, the Red Cross has responded to more than 1,900 home fires in the Missouri-Arkansas Region, assisting some 6,900 people and that includes 360 home fires and 1,600 persons in Missouri.
Jeff said he was familiar with the Red Cross and its work around the world, but he didn’t think about it being in the Midwest.
“I can’t say how much it means to me, thank you so much,” Jeff told the volunteers.
Attending the meeting were Diane and Roger Bloyd, DAT volunteers from
Overland Park, who responded to Jeff’s home fire. The husband and wife have been working as Disaster Action Team members for about a year, responding together to home fires to help those in need.
Jeff recalled sitting in the car with his family, wondering about what to do next when he heard a tap on the window. When he looked out, he saw Diane and Roger there to help them.
They were able to provide the family with immediate assistance so the family would have a warm place to stay.
At the meeting, Jeff and Jason had a chance to visit with Diane and Roger, and thank them in person for what they did that night.
“It’s just very rewarding and it makes me feel so happy that we were able to respond and help them out,” Diane said.
In talking to them, Jeff referred to Diane and Roger as heroes, a notion that she quickly rejected.
“Jacob was the real hero here, not us,” Diane said.
For more information on how you can become a Red Cross volunteer, go to www.redcross.org/volunteertoday.
Also, if you would like to have a free smoke alarm installed in your home, visit www.redcross.org/SmokeAlarmMO and fill out the form.