After hearing about a house fire that killed a Keizer father and his 6-year-old daughter, Jennifer Craig made sure to order smoke detectors for every room.
Her home had been vacant for many years and had no working smoke alarms when she, her husband Jason Craig and their eight kids moved in.
Little did she know that within two weeks, the alarms would save her family's lives.
Early Saturday morning, a two-alarm fire tore through the Keizer home, displacing the family just two weeks before Christmas.
"It's hard to think about what would've happened if there weren't fire alarms," she said. "They saved my whole family."
Before the fire ignited in the roof of her home, Jennifer had taken her 16-year-old diabetic daughter to a Portland-area hospital. While her husband and their eldest daughter worked, her 19-year-old son Tristan Watson stayed home and babysat the younger siblings.
Tristan was sound asleep when an alarm began blaring. It abruptly went silent and he thought about going back to sleep. Two more alarms went off.
Tristan climbed out of bed, roused the children — Nolan, 14, Raina, 12, Julian, 8, Jazlynne, 6, and Jalena, 4 — and ordered them outside. Carrying the youngest, he put them in his car to keep them warm. While he called Jason, Nolan called 911.
Tristan and Jason rushed back into the home to save what they could: Jennifer's camera, a few Christmas presents and important documents. They stopped when they spotted the heater in the bathroom melting and a fire flickering in the attic.
Flames soon engulfed the roof and smoke billowed out of the home, located in the 4800 block of Gobert Avenue North.
Tristan and Jason watched in horror as their roof caved in. Firefighters from a nearby Keizer fire station quickly responded.
The fire had smoldered in the attic for quite some time before engulfing the home in flames, making it a difficult fire to put out, Keizer Deputy Fire Marshal Anne-Marie Storms said. Fifteen firefighters from four engines worked to extinguish the flames.
Storms said the cause of the fire remains under investigation. She estimated there was more than $100,000 in damage and said the home is uninhabitable.
As the family sifted through their charred belongings and burned home Wednesday, the community around them was coming together to raise money and help them move on.
They moved into the home, owned by Jennifer's father, only a few months ago and due to some confusion, had no insurance. Jennifer said most of their belongings were lost. A few things, like a set of metal bunk beds, survived the fire, but most of their furniture and mattresses were destroyed.
"Even though we lost the house, it could've been much worse," Jennifer said.
Eric Lloyd, a safety consultant with Risk Management Resources Inc., said he learned about the fire from EAGLE Charter School, where two of the children are students.
He said a big part of his work involves studying these types of incidents, seeing what learning lessons can be gathered from them and trying to prevent them from occurring again.
But as he dug into the story, Lloyd said he was struck by Tristan's heroism, the great learning moment of having working smoke detectors and most of all, by the tight spot the family was left in.
He wanted to make an individual donation and learned others at the school and in the community wanted to donate as well.
Employees at Risk Management Resources and the charter school decided to spearhead a fundraising campaign to help the family buy Christmas presents and basic essentials.
On Wednesday, the family surveyed the damage as contractors heaved soggy beams and crumpled drywall into a dumpster.
One dumpster was already filled with what was left from two of the kids' rooms. Jennifer shook her head in dismay; they'd just redone the floors and repainted every room.
Their Christmas tree, purchased the night before the fire, was now strewn underneath fire debris. Sooty stockings still hung in the living room.
The outpouring of community support is incredible, Jennifer said. Neighbors have stopped by with cookies. Her friend set up a GoFundMe account. People have offered them places to stay, clothing and furniture.
"We are really grateful," Jennifer said. "We have angels watching over us."
How to donate
The fundraiser will run through Dec. 22. Cash or check donations can be mailed or hand-delivered to EAGLE Charter School, 999 Locust St. NE, Salem, Oregon 97301. Checks should be written out to EAGLE Charter School. Those with questions can contact Eric Lloyd at 503-881-4951 or the charter school at 503-339-7114.
Donations can also be made online at GoFundMe.
For questions, comments and news tips, email reporter Whitney Woodworth at email@example.com, call 503-399-6884 or follow on Twitter @wmwoodworth