Family starts over after fire with help from the community

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis-- A community is pulling together to help its neighbors, whose home and everything in it were lost in a fire two weeks ago.

"The house was half full of smoke," said Malachi Gunderson, 15.

It's a night Malachi and his mom Paula Gunderson will never forget.

"He had come in the bedroom where i was and closed the door i opened it again to see if we could get out but it was to smoke in the house,” said Paula Gunderson.

"We woke up all the kids and went out the window. I jumped off the roof and got a latter,” said Malachi.

One by one, Paula and her eight kids escaped their burning Elk Mound home.

Fire crews were able to put the fire out quickly but a short time later flames sparked again.

“It’s gone there is nothing left,” Paula said.

Paula says all the family’s clothes, toys pictures and memories were burned.

"Anything that meant anything to us," said Paula.

Since the fire the family has been living in the American Inn and Suites while they look for a new home.

Space is tight at the hotel but it’s the generosity of the community that’s filling their room and hearts to the brim.

"I'm really happy, I’ve got a bunch of new clothes and everyone been giving us everything we need,” Malachi said.

Cornerstone Apostolic Church has been collecting donations for the family and helped set up fund for money donations.

“I can’t thank them enough. For every child, to be able to hand them something and it’s not exactly what they had but it’s something and they don't feel like they have nothing. I didn't expect to feel so loved,” said Malachi.

Elk Mound Fire Chief Les Shafer says electrical cords or a heat lamp were likely the cause of the fire. But because of the damage, it will likely never be known for sure.

Money donations for the family are being accepted at the Independence State Bank in Elk Mound, and household donations can be left at the Cornerstone Apostolic Church in Elk Mound.

The family says one big item they still need is a car. That burned in the fire too.