Family loses home in fire 2 days before Christmas

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Scott VandenBerg stood outside his fire-gutted home, his beard singed by flames, worried most about the Christmas gifts for his kids.

The gifts were burned and buried in soot beneath the Christmas tree in his home at 2901 Alson Drive NE, near Three Mile Road and East Beltline Avenue in Grand Rapids Township.

“I was ready for Christmas, first time in my new house,” he said. “I was excited.”

He said he was home alone at 5 a.m. Monday, watching the early news, when the fire started.

“I heard a big bang in my garage, and I thought a shelf had come down, and I went to open the door in the garage and it was fully engulfed,” he said.

The flames jumped toward his face, singeing his beard. Firefighters later rescued his daughter’s cat.

He had moved into the home in June and had just finished Christmas shopping for his kids, 13-year-old Bryce and 9-year-old Brooklyn, who were staying at their mom’s house.

“Just get everything wrapped last night and put it under the tree,” he said. “All of my Christmas presents are gone. As you can see, it’s not quite what I had on my list as my favorite things to do today, to say the least.”

The fire appeared to start in the garage, destroying his car and pickup truck, and jumped into the house.

It also damaged the neighbor’s house.

Early in afternoon, the fire rekindled, leading to another visit from the Grand Rapids Township Fire Department.

Already, neighbors are reaching out to help.

“It’s just amazing how people come together, no matter what,” VandenBerg said. “Everybody has just been so great and so supportive. I’ve had people come over and stop by that aren’t even in the neighborhood, dropping off gifts, baskets, food. They saw it on the news and they’re just coming to help. There’s amazing people in this town.”

Investigators don’t know what started the fire.

For now, VandenBerg said he’ll spend Christmas with his parents. His boss has started a GoFundMe page for the family.

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Online: GoFundMe page for Scott VandenBerg