Suburban family’s story of surviving a fire offers insight, advice

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WGN’s Sarah Jindra starts a news segment called “Seen from Skycam” which will feature updates on stories first reported by her in her afternoon SkyCam9 flights.

SkyCam9 flew over a house fire in Evanston earlier this year and at the time, the only reports were that it was an attic fire and crews were fighting it in a  negative 30 degree wind-chill.

The home belongs to the Schriners, a family of six, who just moved in six weeks before this fire ripped through their home.

For the last three months, Mike, Christina and their four beautiful children have been wearing donated clothes, sitting on donated furniture and living in a temporary home.

The fire started when workers were installing a new H-Vac unit.

Thankfully, the family and their pets all made it out safely.

Today, three months later, part of the roof now sits where the kids used to play with their toys and ax holes litter the walls in every room.

It’s going to be another year and half before the Schriners will be back in their home.

The Schriners have lost nearly all of their keepsakes and possessions, just these few pictures were salvaged from the fire. But they say the most important thing is having all the people in the pictures right by their side.
The Schriners want to share some of what they have learned from the experience.

Preparing for a disaster, like a fire

  • Have a fire escape plan:
  • Red Cross tips for preparedness, response and recovery:
  • Have a plan or at least think about what you and your family would do in case of such an emergency.  Think about how important it is to get everyone out of the house and as time permits anything you might grab on the way out.  (Important documentation, laptop, back-up hard drive, etc.)  Include in that plan a sticker or sign on the front door indicating to the fire department that there are pets in the house.
  • Secure your valuable paperwork into a safe, or a safe deposit box at a local bank.  Things like birth certificates, passports, deeds (car and house), social security cards.
  • Have a fire extinguisher somewhere in the house.  The most likely place probably being the kitchen.  Have it handy when working in the house with an open flame.
  • Hire a bonded and insured company during a renovation.  Especially as it pertains to electrical wiring.
  • Document your assets and update it somewhat regularly.  Taking video is likely the most efficient way to do this.  Don't forget jewelry, medicine cabinet, pantry.
  • Understand your Home Owners policy.  One important thing to note are the amount(s) you are insured for.  There are three "buckets" if you will; Dwelling (value of your home), Contents (everything you own in the home) and Additional Living Expenses (the cost of living outside of your home).  You want to make sure these values truly cover all of these things.  Also, pay close attention to the  word  depreciation.  The Schriners policy covered "replacement cost" which does not depreciate assets.  "That means if we paid $1000 for our TV six years ago they will cover $1000 for the cost of the TV.  Versus depreciating that TV down to what it would be worth today... likely around $300. "

During andjust after the disaster, fire:

  • Board-up companies will solicit business during and after the devastation.  Insurance adjusters and General Contractors will do the same.  They might even wait outside your house the next day for an opportunity to sell you their services.
  • The Red Cross will also appear.  You have the option to accept or decline their services.
  • Call your insurance company.  They have the resources to find a place for you to stay temporarily and permanently.
  • Call your family and call your employer.


  • Call all of your providers; i.e. gas, electric, phone, internet, cable, etc.
  • Contact the Post Office and have them put a hold on your mail.  Then contact them again once you find something long-term and send them that forwarding address.
  • "Our insurance company has tasked us with finding a General Contractor to do the restoration work.  The downside is the tedious task of finding a good, reliable and cost effective contractor.  The upside is the flexibility in hiring someone you are comfortable with."
  • Inventorying all of your assets.  From pictures and video, document everything you own in the house.  Receipts for the more expensive items are also helpful.



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