ALBANY, MN (WCCO) — Tragedy was at the door as a family of five slept inside their rural Stearns County home early Monday morning.

“Our hearts sunk, there was a little confusion waking up in the middle of the night,” said the father of three small girls, Robert Power.

Power recalls his two elementary age girls recently insisted the family test their smoke detectors. It was a lesson taught during school activities as part of October’s Fire Prevention Month.

It was just around 2:00 a.m. on Monday when the girl’s reassurance saved their lives. That’s when parents and children all awoke to the shrill siren and escaped the smoke and flames.

“Make sure your smoke detectors are working. If it wasn’t for that I don’t know if we would have woke up,” explained Power.

While the investigation continues, it is believed that a space heater being used to supplement the youngest child’s room malfunctioned. Power says  that the heater was recently purchased and had all the modern safety features. It’s unclear if it may have shorted out or if possibly a piece of clothing or bedding came in contact.

When the 25 firefighters from Albany and Avon got to the scene, the family was already out of the home and in the care of neighbors.

Paramedics treated the two-and-a-half year-old child for minor smoke inhalation at the scene.

“It could have been a very tragic situation,” said Albany Fire Chief, Gary Winkels.

Chief Winkels says it was the difference between grief and gratitude. Working smoke detectors a must, and space heaters used only with extreme caution.

“This is the most dangerous time of year. People are using alternative heating sources and there are a lot of fire deaths this time of year,” said Chief Winkels.

Heavy smoke damage will force Robert and his family into temporary housing for months — a small inconvenience to what could have been unimaginable tragedy.

Fire fighters and the family hope this case is a reminder to all of us. When using space heaters keep them away from combustibles and never use extension cords.

Finally, make sure your smoke detectors are in working order by frequently testing them and replace batteries each year.

Bill Hudson

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