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

“I don't know who gives dogs medals for being superheros, but send them my way,” Devin Haegeman wrote on Facebook. “She's going to need a proper visit to the groomer right away to get the soot smell out, but she's got a warm bed with her family tonight.”

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Hannah Haegeman surveys the fire damage to the family's laundry room.<br/>
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NEVIS, Minn. -- A terrible tragedy was averted by a Nevis family’s dog, named Gracie, early Wednesday morning.

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

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

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

They were awoken “to heavy smoke wafting through the house.”

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

Hannah was in bed with their baby, Marcella. Emily was already in the hallway, according to Devin. Hannah ushered both daughters out of the house.

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Maddox, Devin and Emily posed for this photo in June 2020.
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“I went to grab the boys. The youngest boy had fallen asleep in the living room. I didn’t see him, but ran into him in the living room,” Devin recalled. He put Daniel on the porch, where Hannah could reach him.

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

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

The Haegemans think the fire may have started in the laundry room – and spread quickly.

“After I got the kids out, I went outside and I couldn’t find the dog,” Devin said. “So I went back in to grab her, which was a bit of a struggle. She was terrified.”

Gracie was hiding under a bed, and Devin had to drag her out. He was able to carry “the furriest Haegeman” to safety.

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Gracie is thought to be part Labrador and border collie. The Haegensons had fostered her for another family member, but ended up adopting her.

“Real nice thing we did,” Devin said.The family escaped with only a minute or two to spare.

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

A solid one-third of the home is cinders, completely destroyed, he estimates. “If we manage to save pictures, we’ll be lucky.”He describes Gracie as gentle, kind and brilliant.

“I don't know who gives dogs medals for being superheros, but send them my way,” he wrote on Facebook. “She's going to need a proper visit to the groomer right away to get the soot smell out, but she's got a warm bed with her family tonight.”

The kids were taken to the hospital via ambulance to get checked out. Everyone is fine.

While they didn’t have renter’s insurance, the couple teaches permit-to-carry classes through their business, Danger Tactical, LLP. Since the home was also the office, he expects business insurance to cover some expenses.

Due to health issues, Devin is currently on disability. He’s working with insurance to replace his destroyed medicine.

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Devin served seven years in the National Guard, while Hannah remains enlisted after six years.

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

The Haegemans are staying, free of charge, at the Crow Wing Inn.

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

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

Devin’s brother and brother’s girlfriend created a GoFundMe account for the family at https://gofund.me/e979d6b6 . As of Friday, $8,705 of the $20,000 goal was raised.

Related Topics: FIRESNEVIS
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