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Area police, rescue workers and residents help officer whose family lost everything

Updated: 2013-12-16T01:26:48Z

By CHRISTINE VENDEL

The Kansas City Star

Kansas City police Officer Matt Hannah escaped a house fire Thursday with everything important to him: his wife and nine kids.

But the blaze destroyed their home and everything inside, leaving them with nothing more than the socks on their feet and the pajamas on their backs.

They had nothing to change into and nothing to eat. All their cash, credit cards and identification were gone.

But within hours, the family that opened their home to several adopted children was propped up by a bigger family of police officers, rescue workers and residents from Kansas City and beyond.

A police sergeant immediately bought Hannah new shoes. Another officer bought clothes so the kids could change out of their pajamas. The Kansas City Police Foundation gave the family $2,500 to help with unforeseen expenses such as feeding 11 mouths three times a day at restaurants since they were without food, a kitchen or utensils to prepare their own meals.

Soon, co-workers and residents brought piles of clothing, shoes and coats — all in sizes to fit the nine children — to Kansas City police stations. Donations from area police and fire departments and rescue workers also poured in. Secret Santa, a man who’s picked up the tradition of the late Larry Stewart by surprising strangers with greenbacks during the holidays, even paid a visit Saturday.

“I already know this is going to be a great Christmas,” Hannah told Police Chief Darryl Forté and other well-wishers who had gathered Saturday at the South Patrol Division station, where donations are being stored.

The American Red Cross provided three connected motel rooms for the family until it finds more permanent housing. Several residents have offered vacant or rental homes, said Sgt. Rod Gentry, who is coordinating the donations.

“(Hannah) said he could never have dreamed of this kind of support,” Gentry said. “Everyone has really stepped up.”

Hannah, a 21-year-police veteran, first noticed the fire about 2:30 a.m. inside his split-level brick home. He alerted his wife, and together through the smoke, they systematically located and evacuated each of their children, ages 2 to 16, through a bedroom window onto the roof of a sunroom.

Fire investigators have not determined a cause for the fire. They planned to continue their investigation Monday.

To reach Christine Vendel, call 816-234-4438 or send email to cvendel@kcstar.com.

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