When Everything Turns to Ash: Rebuilding Families After a Disaster
Change Maker Sponsor - United Way of Greater Toledo

When Everything Turns to Ash: Rebuilding Families After a Disaster

United Way fights for the education, health and financial stability of every person in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa County.

This post is brought to you by the generous support of Dana Incorporated. With more than 30,000 employees globally and $7.2 billion in sales, Dana Incorporated understands the power of their worldwide market, while maintaining a strong impact in the community surrounding their headquarters.


With her eyes still closed, Amy* extended her hand across her bedside table, searching for her alarm clock.

Her palm hit the “snooze”, but, the loud ringing didn’t stop. She hit it again and again, and still nothing. She realized it was 3:30 in the morning - why was her alarm going off this early?

Slightly confused and in an early morning haze, Amy’s eyes widened
once she realized the loud, piercing sound was a fire alarm.

In the same second she understood what was going on, she simultaneously felt the hand of her husband Jake* on her arm. “What’s happening?” he said in a panic. Quickly, Amy sprung for the door and looked down the hallway: it was dark.

Jake was following close behind and ran down the stairs to inspect the first floor. Before Amy could catch up, she heard him yell, “Get out of the house!”

She had never felt anything quite like this before - she had never been this close to something so incredibly hot, making her sweat profusely. Amy’s jaw dropped when she looked out on her kitchen, now completely engulfed in flames.

Amy went back up the stairs so fast, it felt as though her feet merely grazed the ground a few times. She burst into her one-year-old’s room, saw him standing wide-awake in his crib and pulled him safely to her chest.

Soon, she was outside, but where was Jake? Knots started to form in her stomach. She stood in the front yard in complete disbelief. Just a few minutes had past and flames were now shooting out every first floor window, and every room on the second floor was now illuminated.

Her trance was broken as booming coughs broke the silence. It was Jake, carrying Bo, their little Jack Russell Terrier in his arms.

“It took me forever to find him,” he said, wheezing for air. Bo was completely limp. “I think he took in too much smoke.”

With the baby in her arms, she bolted to the neighbors across the street. By the time they made the 9-1-1 call, their entire home was up in flames. Even standing 50 yards away, the blaze was scorching.

In a matter of hours, everything was gone.

Amy and Jake couldn’t help but cry in each others arms as they
watched everything they had worked so hard for turned to ash.

Bo was rushed to the vet and, with the help of an oxygen mask, finally came-through the traumatic ordeal. Amy, Jake and their little one sat in the back of an ambulance, with no shoes and nothing but their pajamas. Soon, American Red Cross was on the scene, equipped with extra clothes, water and food for the family. They were even able to help find them emergency shelter, but Amy’s father lived a short distance away and was already there comforting her.

Later, Amy and Jake were informed that a faulty wire in the kitchen started the blaze. The American Red Cross followed-up with the family to ensure the next home they moved into would be equipped with proper fire alarms, as well as a prepare them with a rehearsed fire escape plan.

It’s taken a while for Amy to not feel a wave of panic every time her alarm clock sounds in the morning. Despite the pain she still feels after losing her home, she’s grateful everyone made it out okay, and for the Red Cross, who was there to comfort and provide supplies to her family.

Knowing community resources were there during a disaster, and would be there as they rebuilt their lives, gave Amy a slight sense of relief—that despite this tragedy, everything was going to be okay.


CHANGE MAKER ACTION: Because of your support, United Way of Greater Toledo and our corporate partners, like Dana, are able to invest in programs that create lasting change in our community. We thank Dana and its employees for being committed to creating optimal safety in our community through allowing us to invest in programs like the Family Emergency Response Services Program. An astounding number of individuals in our community live in homes that are not equipped with fire alarms. You can visit this link to receive a free fire alarm, or, recommend this site to someone in our community who is in need of a fire alarm. By donating below, you can help local families receive the health and human services needed in the event of a disaster.

United Way Toledo Donate Button

*This blog post is fictional but based on a real success story submitted by the American Red Cross of Northwest Ohio, on behalf of their Family Emergency Response Services Program. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s personal successes and struggles.

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