Home Fire Relief – Brainerd, Minnesota

Red Cross volunteers assist Brainerd couple after home fire

When a fire broke out at Tom Phillips’s home, he worried he and his fiance, Jenny Tienter, might have to spend the night in his car.

However, a team of volunteers with the Red Cross reached out to Phillips and his fiance to ensure they had a place to stay and provided them with other forms of assistance. In times of need, countless volunteers with the Red Cross assist people like Phillips and his fiance, who have been displaced by house fires.

“Without (the volunteers) I would’ve really been in a hard spot. They helped me out considerably,” Phillips said.

The Jan. 27 fire in Brainerd, Minnesota, began when a camping stove Phillips was using to prepare breakfast blew up. Phillips managed to get his fiance out of their burning home but unfortunately wasn’t able to get out his basset hound, Delilah.

“I miss her dearly,” he said, of Delilah. “That’s one loss I’m still trying to recover from, and I’m sure I never really will.”

Family photo of Delilah

Phillips said the Red Cross volunteers, including Dana Dimit, assisted him and his fiance in getting their lives back on track. He said he’s talked with the volunteers frequently, and they answered his questions and connected him with resources, including a mental health support group to help him cope with the loss of his dog.

Dimit has been volunteering with the Red Cross for nearly five years.

“The minute I retired I joined the Red Cross,” the former technology consultant said.

Dimit said she decided to volunteer in part because she wanted to “do something completely different,” that was “more people-oriented” and didn’t involve technology.

Dimit primarily works as a disaster responder with the Red Cross, but also does orientation for new volunteers and has been assisting with setting up a new internal system for tracking house fires.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Dimit has shifted to doing intake for fires that occur in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, gathering information about the fires and talking with those who have been displaced.

Dana Dimit

Dimit makes herself available, even in the middle of the night. She recalled a recent phone call she received late at night from someone displaced by fire who said they didn’t have any shoes or a place to go, so she helped ensure they had a place to stay.

 “If I don’t know what’s going on, I worry about them,” she said.

Despite losing his house and his belongings, Phillips said he’s trying to remain optimistic. Without the Red Cross, he said, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.

Story by Blair Emerson – Red Cross volunteer

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