‘All the difference’: Family who once participated in WBTV fire drill loses home in fire

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 5:47 PM EDT
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WEDDINGTON, N.C. (WBTV) - If you have ever thought you don’t really need to practice your family’s escape route in case of a fire, this story will likely change your mind.

A dad and his two kids in Weddington were able to escape their home before a fire, started by unattended embers in an outdoor fire pit, burned it to the ground.

“I stood in the street and held the kids and said over and over that it is only stuff, it is only stuff,” Jason Gudzunas told us.

The fire started on the outside of the house, which means it wasn’t the smoke detectors that woke Guzunas. It was the fire outside the window and the crackling of wood. Gudzunas grabbed his cell phone, woke up the kids, and out the door they went. The house is a total loss but Jason and his kids are fine.

That isn’t typically a story we would follow up on, but WBTV’s Kristen Miranda has interviewed Gudzunas before. In 2013 Gudzunas, who works for the Red Cross, volunteered his family for a challenge.

Kristen was testing whether a family could get out of their home during a natural disaster in five minutes or less with the items they’d need.

“I remember not thinking clearly in the stress of that drill,” Gudzunas said.

Five minute warning

The family came out with some of the things most important to them, but forgot one of their pets, their insurance information and marriage license, and Gudzunas left his cell phone inside. However it was his phone that he grabbed first in the real-life disaster.

“Doing that piece with you and showing it to other people and being proud of it, we’d talk about it and go over it in our heads and that repetition made all the difference,” Gudzunas said.

The Red Cross recommends families practice their escape plan twice a year from beginning to end.

“The word plan can trip people up. If you hear the smoke detector you want to practice how fast you can get out, where you are going to go, and what you will take with you?” Red Cross Regional Disaster Office Robert Sofaly told us. “After those two physical practice sessions, practice can really even be a conversation at the dinner table.”

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