FORNEY, Texas (CBS11) – Flames rapidly tore through a Kaufman County house while Gerardo Guardiola, his wife, and their extended family were finishing dinner on Christmas Eve.
On Christmas afternoon, all Guardiola could do was look at what’s left of the house he and his wife built 12 years ago. “All of it is gone. Everything is gone. It’s heart-breaking. I built this home in 2005. I moved in on Christmas Eve. I’ve been here since then.”
Guardiola, a Dallas police officer for 21 years, says his children first spotted smoke coming out of their back chimney while they were on the backyard trampoline.
Everyone escaped without getting hurt.
Neighbors say three fire departments, including Forney, Crandall and Terrell, battled the blaze.
No word of an official cause of the fire, but the fire marshal will return Tuesday to determine what sparked the flames.
Guardiola says he stayed behind while his wife and children went to a relatives. “I struggle looking at it myself as an adult. I don’t know if I want the kids to see that.”
Neighbors, friends, even strangers are rallying around the Guardiolas.
They brought food, clothing and gifts for the family. They also brought coffee for firefighters.
Butch Mims, who lives down the street from the Guardiolas in an unincorporated area of Forney in Kaufman County says, “There’s only 14 houses here in the community. Again, when something happens to one, it happens to all. These are family members to us.”
“Friends of ours were calling and texting and were able to bring things by and provide support. That’s what we’re here for and what we’re called to do,” says Tim Danziger, whose family lives next door to the Guardiolas.
Homeowners Association President Luke Ragsdale says, “We’re all out here as a community, arm in arm, that’s what life is all about. That’s what this season is all about: is family and your faith.”
Elizabeth Guardiola was overcome with emotion as she thanked her neighbors and friends. “We have good neighbors. They’ve been helping us and thank you everyone for being with us.”
Gerardo Guardiola says with wonderful neighbors like these, there’s no doubt they will rebuild here. “I got to stay here. We love it. We hate that this happened but it’s still home and we’re going to do the best thing we can go get it back up.”
The Dallas Police Association and the Assist the Officer Foundation are helping the Guardiola family by putting them up in a hotel and providing financial assistance.
If you’d like to donate to the family, you can go the Assist The Officer Foundation website and specify the Guardiola family.
A GoFundMe account has also been set up for the family.