Soot and the acrid smell of smoke linger as you walk around the outside of Rosie Saunders’ home, although the fire struck a month ago. She points to the window of the bedroom where her daughter was trapped.
She was sitting on the couch at around 9 p.m. when she heard the smoke alarm. She thought it was a simple thing…until she heard her husband William yell “Fire! Fire! Fire!
It did start with a simple thing: a tea light that fell into a plastic tub of clothes. It was a simple thing that saved them, too: a smoke alarm that the Columbus Division of Fire and volunteers from the American Red Cross had installed a smoke alarm just a week earlier.
Smoke was coming out of 15-year-old Cheyenne’s room. William got Cheyenne out, and the family met at their pre-arranged gathering point in the front yard.
Rosie and her family had allowed the Columbus Division of Fire and volunteers from the American Red Cross to install smoke alarms in the basement and dining room of their home just a week earlier. “If it hadn’t been for the smoke alarm we wouldn’t have known the fire was there,” says Rosie.
The biggest loss was their home of nearly three years. It carries so many memories, says Rosie. Then she looks at Cheyenne and thinks about how much bigger the loss could have been.
“I don’t know if I could have dealt with losing one of my children. They are my life,” she says.
As firefighters were dousing hot spots that night, Stasia Levakis and other members of the American Red Cross’s Disaster Action Team arrived. Team members, who are on call for designated days, often receive minimal information as they head to the scene. The first thing she had to do, says Stasia, was find out such basic information as how many people the fire affected. Then it was to offer comfort, support, and resources to help the Saunders family meet their basic needs.
Rosie’s first need was “make sure my kids had a roof over their heads.”
Thanks to Stasia, her fellow volunteers, and Red Cross donors and partners, the Saunders did have a roof over their heads that night at a local hotel, as well as financial assistance for clothing and food.
Family, pets and neighbors are safe. They have revisited the scene of the near-catastrophe to salvage what they can. Cheyenne will have what she needs when she returns to school at the end of August.
Because of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, Rosie and her family are not among the seven people per day in the United States who die in a fire. Since the campaign launched in October of 2014, more than a quarter of a million smoke alarms have been installed in homes across the country.
For Rosie Saunders, the statistics are personal. “Thank you so much. You saved my daughter,” she says.
“If it wasn’t for the smoke alarm, I wouldn’t have her.”