Couple rescued from house fire

Good Samaritans break down door

to reach slumbering couple in inferno

A cigarette break may have saved a Dunn Center couple from perishing in a fire that consumed their home on Dec. 30.


Mike and Rene Lantz were rescued by Good Samaritans when they were pulled out of their burning home. They were both hospitalized for smoke inhalation and burns but were expected to be released this week.

Their home at 15 First St. West in Dunn Center was destroyed, along with just about everything they owned, said Ryan Hauck, fire chief for the Dunn County Fire Protection District. Investigators are still looking into what started the fire that lit up the cold night sky, said Hauck.

One thing is for certain, things may have turned out much worse if not for a chance smoke break by a patron at the DC Pub & Grub.

Alan Pavlicek was socializing at the DC Pub & Grub when he stepped out to smoke a cigarette. He noticed a house on fire a block away. The former volunteer firefighter immediately went back into the pub and told his friends of the house fire.

Daniel Binek, Jake Blackford and Zack Pavlicek rushed out the door to help. They could see flames on the west side of the house.

Pavlicek, himself a volunteer firefighter, called 911 as he was running to the scene. It was 9:27 p.m.

Binek is a longtime close friend of the couple and he knew their habits, so he figured they would be home. The men, who were then joined by other members of the close-knit town, went around the other side of the house where Mike and Rene had their bedroom.

The smoke filled the house. The men broke down a slide glass door and entered. The smoke was thick. They couldn’t see. They couldn’t breathe.

Somebody saw a hand. It was Rene’s. Binek grabbed her and started pulling her out of the building. Blackford and others helped him get her out of the buildings.

Others outside the building took off their coats to cover Rene. Others rushed home to get blankets.

Meanwhile, Binek went back in. In the process of getting Rene out, he saw where Mike was. He was unconscious, so there was little time to waste. Binek grabbed his friend, and was met by Pavlicek near the stairs, and they pulled him out.

The West Dunn Fire Protection District arrived on the scene at 9:32 p.m. By that time, the fire had gotten in the walls and then Flames could be seen dancing on the roof top. Shortly after, the roof caved in, and the blaze devoured the area where the couple had been sleeping.

The plan, Hauck said, was to contain and extinguish the fire. Roughly 20 firefighters from the Dunn Center and Killdeer halls responded, and they had two pumpers, two tankers and two quick-response units. But the fire spread so quickly that plan of attack was then to keep it from spreading to other buildings.

The Killdeer Ambulance Service responded with three ambulances, two to transport Mike and Rene and another as a standby, Hauck said.

Rene was taken to a hospital in Dickinson. They transported Mike to Manning, where he was airlifted to a hospital in Bismarck and then a burn unit in St. Paul, Minn.

“I truly believe, had we not reacted the way we did, it would’ve been worse,” Pavlicek said.

For some, those actions of the good Samaritans would be considered heroic.

But they don’t consider themselves heroes. It was a matter of taking care of their own in the community.

“This is a small community. We all love Mike and Rene,” said Pavilcek. “It was just reaction, get them out.”

“I didn’t think about anything. I just kind of did it,” Blackford said. “I just did what most people would’ve done in that situation.”

The community has set up a fundraiser for the couple. A dinner and silent auction will be held at the DC Pub & Grub on Jan. 28. An account in their name has been set up at First International Bank for anybody interested in making a cash donation.

An furnished apartment in Killdeer has been set up for the couple by Mike’s employer, KMM. Donations of everyday household items are also being collected for the couple at KMM.

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