10-year-old girl and kitten save North Dakota family from burning home

They are both being honored as heroes.

Kassidee Gallaway and Sage. (Forum News Service)
We are part of The Trust Project.

CRYSTAL, N.D. — Ten-year-old Kassidee Gallaway wears a "hero" diamond necklace around her neck. It was donated by Helzberg Diamonds in Grand Forks to always remind her of Jan. 20, 2021.

"I was thinking we weren't going to make it out," Kassidee said.

It was just after 6 a.m. Jan. 20 when the family cat, Sage, began pawing at Kassidee's face, waking her up. She noticed something did not seem right.

"It smelled like burnt pizza. It was really hot in my room. I couldn't breathe and I went out to get my breath," Kassidee said.


10-year-old girl, kitten, save Pembina County family from burning home
Firefighters battle the fire in Crystal on January 20.

Her house was on fire. She quickly ran to wake up her parents and her brother.

"I don't think any of us would be here," said stepdad Cody Saiger.

He also said Kassidee remembered opening a door could fuel a fire. She waited until everyone was at the front door to get out.

"When the front door was open, all the windows blew out and the fire took off," Saiger said.

The family is safe. However, they lost everything in the fire.

"She stayed calm, a lot more than me," said Kassidee's mom, Charlotte Reilly.

10-year-old girl, kitten save Pembina County family from burning home
Unfortunately, Sage did not make it out. The family had just adopted the kitten a month before the fire.


"(We're) lucky we had her when we did for the short time we did," Reilly said.

Sage died a hero. The Hoople Fire Department, who battled the flames that morning, gave the family an honorary helmet to make sure Sage would never be forgotten. Sage was buried over the weekend with full honors from both fire departments.

Firefighters also wrote a card to honor Sage.

Part of it read, "She was truly one of us by getting you and your family out in time. Never forget your furry friend and our hero Sage."

A GoFundMe site has been set up for the family. There is also a benefit supper Saturday, Feb. 6, at the Gardar Town Hall.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
What to read next
A press release from the Sioux Falls Police Department did not specify whether the individual killed was a suspect, officer or bystander.
The budget includes new expenditures for staff recruitment efforts, such as an employee referral program, advertising and job fairs.
Cases of fraud or alleged fraud have caused uncertainty and mistrust among some consumers in an industry that relies largely on the honesty of producers, processors and packagers to maintain the integrity of the industry.
The South Dakota Department of Public Safety is releasing daily updates on crashes and crime in and around Sturgis for the duration of the nine-day rally.