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Firefighter called to fire at Christmas party he planned to attend: "I didn't recognize the address at all until I got there"

NOW: Firefighter called to fire at Christmas party he planned to attend: "I didn’t recognize the address at all until I got there"

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MUKWONAGO, Wis (CBS 58) -- The Red Cross already assisted ten families in Southeastern Wisconsin area since Friday, five of those fires happened since Christmas, and one of them was personal for a Vernon firefighter.

"My wife and I, Janice, were on our way to a friend of mine's house. He has a Christmas party every year. On the way, my pager went off for a fire in Mukwonago," said Asst. Chief Patrick Hays with Vernon Fire Department.

Hays was headed to a Christmas party at the home, and instead of arriving as a guest, he got to his friend's now-burning home in full firefighting gear.

"I didn't recognize the address at all until I got there. When I pulled up I saw bubba sitting outside," said Hays.

His wife, a veterinary technician, tried to save bubba's two cats that were trapped inside.

"I said, 'Janice you have to get here. This is bubba's house. His cats are inside... and sad to say she wasn't able to bring them back,'" said Hays.

Vernon fire department's motto: "We treat you like family." For Assistant Chief Hays, this time, it was.

"It's definitely different. I was running a fire and a lot of my friends were watching what was going on. I'm concerned about Bubba making sure he was okay," said Hays.

At the Mukwonago home, the cause was electrical, but the Milwaukee Fire Department says lots of fires start around the holidays for a lot of reasons.

"It's just a combination of everything. The holidays there is more cooking going on, it's also very cold outside so there's more space heaters in use," said Lt. Michael Ball with the Milwaukee Fire Department.

Lt. Ball says you should also use caution with candles and extension cords, but one simple step can save your life.

"The most important thing that you can do is have working smoke alarm... it's easy to forget because we normally don't have fires. Take a moment today, check and make sure it works," said Lt. Ball.

If you can't afford a working smoke alarm, the Milwaukee Fire Department will install it for free. You can call the 24-hour smoke detector hotline at 414-286-8980.

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