Every winter season, fire departments across the country warn us all to have heating equipment and chimneys inspected by a qualified professional.
A devastating fire on Friday night displaced a family of five, including two parents and three young children.
They moved in about a month ago and just settled for Christmas when a fire broke out in their rental home in the Broad Run section of Ashburn, Va.
Now, the family is calling their neighbors, who just last week were complete strangers, their heroes and new family.
It started just before 8:30 p.m. last Friday with a Good Samaritan, who jumped into action.
“Great Samaritan, I can’t even call him Good Samaritan,” said Serge Elkhoueiry.
Serge is the dad in this family of five.
His wife is Rita Elkhoueiry said she opened to a man banging on her door.
“He just drove off the main street and saw it and just came in here and called 9-1-1, banged on my door and when I opened the door, he was just starting to grasp our house was on fire and we need to get out, he just ran up my stairs, grabbed my son by his hand and picked up my daughter and pulled them out of the house,” said Rita.
She said they’ve used the fireplace in their rental home at least three times before. However on December 8th, the top of the chimney caught fire and spread to the roof.
The Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office determined a malfunctioning fireplace was the cause.
As if this wasn’t difficult enough, the family said they had just relocated about a month ago from Qatar and lost everything – even their Christmas presents.
“So we took them into our house and tried to distract them…but it was a terrifying night,” said a neighbor named Janice Speer.
And yet the parents were smiling on camera on Monday.
“We’re fine because of the neighbors and because of the community and we’re so thankful," said Rita.
Those neighbors, once they learned all that had happened, created a GoFundMe account and started taking-in donations. They’re even hiding Christmas gifts for Rita and Serge’s three kids.
“There’s still a lot of amazing people in the world that are willing to go above and beyond for their neighbors," said Spree.
She then backed away from the camera and started crying.
“It’s been a tough weekend,” Speer said now fighting back emotion, “but it’s been an amazing weekend because we’ve gotten to know so many neighbors, from other streets that we didn’t know, and people are just coming together. It’s been incredible.”
The Elkhoueiry’s say they do have basic rental insurance, but they don’t know what that will cover. They’re expected to meet with insurance agents on Tuesday.
In the meantime, we’re told even the nearby high school is collecting for the family.
The fire department estimates about $475,000-worth of damage at just the one home alone. The adjacent homes had about $10,000-worth of damage each.
Neighbors said they no longer need clothes and presents, but they’re still collecting on the GoFundMe page created.