Katryna Hunt had a bad feeling the morning of September 20, 2021 in Minot, North Dakota, but she left for work early anyway to make sure she was on time.
Her fiance’ TJ had just gotten home from his night shift and headed to bed. Soon after, the blaring sound of smoke alarms woke him. Maybe, he thought, their roommate Nick was cooking but then he saw the smoke and flames.
TJ called Katryna and all she could make out before they were disconnected was the word “fire”. She immediately rushed home and when she arrived, she could see her home in flames – a fire had started outside on her porch.
Fortunately, TJ, Nick, her 11-year-old cat Precious and their pet lizard had safely evacuated with a few valuables.
Soon the Red Cross was on scene offering comfort and disaster assistance, including financial support, comfort kits, cleaning items and help finding immediate shelter. Red Cross assistance helped cover a two-week hotel stay that allowed for Precious to be with her.
“I was so worried about Precious because she has separation anxiety and would not have done well without being close to me. I was so grateful that they were able to find a hotel that allowed Precious!” said Katryna.
She credits working smoke alarms with saving their lives. “When I went back to get a few things and clean up I could hear the smoke alarm that was by the back door still faintly beeping –without these things could have ended much worse.”
Katryna feels fortunate everyone was safe. Despite soot covering their belongings, she was able to recover a few meaningful items, including her porcelain doll collection.
Red Cross volunteers were able to refer Katryna to another agency who helped her with a deposit for a new rental unit and the first month’s rent. In October, Katryna moved into her new home. One of her first calls she got was from the Red Cross congratulating her and checking to see if she needed anything.
“Red Cross volunteers followed up with me every day! It was so comforting to have someone check up on me because all my family is in Tennessee. I knew I wasn’t alone.”
Katryna feels lucky and hopes that her story helps raise awareness of the need for working smoke alarms. “Home fires can happen to anyone, anytime – having working smoke alarms is an easy thing we can all do to avoid the unthinkable.”
Make sure you and your loved ones are prepared for home fires, visit soundthealarm.org/mndaks.
Story by Sue Thesenga/American Red Cross. Photos courtesy Katryna Hunt.