Pet dog saves north-central Minnesota family of six from house fire

The 5-year-old mutt saved the lives of all six Haegemans by warning them of a house fire.

Devin and Hannah Haegeman and their four children – Emily, 9; Maddox, 4; Daniel, 2, and Marcella, 4 months – were woken up at 5 a.m. on December 22nd.

In less than 10 minutes, the fire struck one end of the trailer. Devin says he couldn’t have reached his boys’ bedroom. Contributed / Devin Haegeman

“My daughter, whose room is right next to ours, screamed because the dog woke her up. Our bedroom door is usually open and Gracie sleeps in our room, but we closed it that night and she woke all three of our children before I even knew the house was on fire, ”says Devin.

They were “awakened by a lot of smoke that wafted through the house”.

“It was hazy in my room and it smelled good. It smelled of warm wood, even of a campfire. I make furniture and it just smelled like warm wood next to a heater, ”said Devin. “And then I opened my door and just couldn’t see it. So I yelled at my wife. “

Hannah was in bed with her baby Marcella. Emily was already in the hall, according to Devin. Hannah led both daughters out of the house.

“I went to get the boys. The youngest boy fell asleep in the living room. I didn’t see him, but I met him in the living room, ”Devin recalled. He put Daniel on the porch where Hannah could reach him.

“I ran to the other end of the house where my 4 year old was sleeping. He was out of bed too, trying to find his way, ”Devin said.

They’ve been renting the single-wide trailer behind the Crow Wing Inn for about a year and a half.

The Haegemans assume that the fire broke out in the laundry room – and is spreading quickly.

Hannah Haegeman examines the fire damage to the family wash house.

Hannah Haegeman examines the fire damage to the family wash house. Contributed / Devin Haegeman

“After I got the kids out, I went outside and couldn’t find the dog,” Devin said. “So I went back inside to catch her, which was a bit of a chore. She was afraid.”

Gracie was hiding under a bed and Devin had to drag her out. He was able to bring “the furryest hunk man” to safety.

Gracie is said to be part of the Labrador and Border Collie. The Haegensons raised her for another family member, but eventually adopted her.

“Really nice thing we did,” said Devin.

In his mind, Devin says that he repeats the timeline over and over again. “At 5 o’clock on the nose my daughter says the dog woke her up. I woke up My watch said 5:01 a.m. The 911 said 5:02 a.m. I was out of the house by 5:06 a.m. and at 5:08 a.m. when the fire department arrived, the wall in the laundry room collapsed and the fire flashed on.”

It wasn’t an explosion, he said, but when the wall came down the back door flew open and flames began to pound.

“It was moments. It got to the point that once that happened, less than 10 minutes after we left our house, I would not have been able to get to my son, ”said Devin.

He wrote: “The laundry room was completely flooded, flames hit the sky and any chance of getting into the boy’s room was absolutely lost.”

They escaped in just a minute or two.

Nevis Fire and Rescue responded to the call. They were supported by the Eastern Hubbard County Fire Department, North Memorial Health, and the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office.

The fire department arrived quickly, said Devin, and they were “on point”. The family crouched in their van.

In his Facebook post, Devin wrote: “We expect a complete total loss. Are we alright? No, but we are safe. “

A solid third of the house is ashes, completely destroyed, he estimates. “If we manage to save images, we’re in luck.”

Devin says “a little carbon monoxide poisoning was worth saving Gracie,” adding, “We can never repay what she did for us that day.”

He describes Gracie as gentle, kind, and brilliant.

“I don’t know who gives dogs medals for being superheroes, but send them to me,” he wrote on Facebook. “She’s going to need a proper visit to the hairdresser’s right now to get the smell of soot out, but she’s got a warm bed with her family tonight.”

The children were taken to the hospital by ambulance for examination. Everyone is fine.

“Of course I waited and drove myself. The doctor yelled at me because I’m the only one who got sick, ”Devin said. He was given oxygen for a couple of hours.

“The house is gone and our things are gone, but my home is safe and warm and perfectly intact,” wrote Devin on Facebook.

“We have to start from scratch, but things could get a lot worse,” he said.

Although they didn’t have renter insurance, the couple teach courses on passenger transportation through their company, Danger Tactical, LLP. Since the apartment was also the office, he expects business insurance to cover part of the expenses.

This photo of Hannah and Devin Haegeman was taken in June 2020.

This photo of Hannah and Devin Haegeman was taken in June 2020.Contributed / Devin Haegeman

Devin is currently disabled for health reasons. He’s working with an insurance company to replace his destroyed medicine.

Devin served in the National Guard for seven years, while Hannah remained in the service after six years.

“We have tons of military resources that have been stretched out,” he said.

The Legion and VFW have contacted the family together with MAHUBE-OTWA and the Red Cross.

The Haegemans stay for free at the Crow Wing Inn.

On Wednesday evening the children were in their jamies, packed with new blankets and new stuffed animals.

Maddox, Devin, and Emily posed for this photo in June 2020.

Maddox, Devin, and Emily posed for this photo in June 2020.Contributed / Devin Haegeman

“Our loss is devastating, but the love we’ve received over the past 17 hours exceeds my expectations,” Devin said on Facebook. “I’ve been thinking for a really long time today about how on earth I should rebuild a whole life for my family with literally nothing. Not to mention damage from trauma alone. “

When Devin was younger than Emily, his family suffered the total loss of their home and property in a fire. Devin said his parents could have recovered with less resources.

“So we’ll make it now,” he wrote.

In the 36 hours since the fire, clothing, pull-ups and diapers have been donated. The Haegemans received about a dozen garment bags in their hotel room, plus more from their in-laws. Hannah’s family is from the Nevis-Akeley area.

You’ll need shoes and winter gear, but living space is currently limited. “Gift cards are a godsend,” said Devin.

Devin’s brother and girlfriend have set up a GoFundMe account for the family at https://gofund.me/e979d6b6. On Saturday, $ 19,000 of the $ 20,000 goal was raised.

The Haegemans are looking for a four or five bedroom house to live in.

“My daughter asked me today if she still needs to clean up her room,” said Devin on Thursday.

A scene from the Haegeman's living room after the December 22nd fire.  Here the 2-year-old Daniel fell asleep.

A scene from the Haegeman’s living room after the December 22nd fire. Here the 2-year-old Daniel fell asleep. Contributed / Devin Haegeman

On Thursday Devin wrote: “This Christmas may be less than traditional, but it is the beginning of something new. I promise we will begin our new traditions today and not make yesterday’s events a habit. The children don’t have a tree, but grandma and grandpa do, and they like to share. “