Help sought for family who lost everything in fire

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published February 10, 2015

 Public safety officers and fire fighters battled a blaze on Elkhart Feb. 9.

Public safety officers and fire fighters battled a blaze on Elkhart Feb. 9.

Photo courtesy of Grosse Pointe Woods

HARPER WOODS — The community is reaching out to help a family in need after they lost their home and all of their possessions in a fire Feb. 9.

The family includes seven children between 1 and 14 years old.

To help them with clothing and other needs, the community is coming together. As of press time last week, the family still needed a lot of help to get back on their feet, including housing.

“The Harper Woods Department of Public Safety chaplain, Darren Harville, is assisting us in coordinating donations to help these members of our community in their time of need,” Public Safety Director James Burke stated in a release. “Due to the age range of the children, clothing, infant supplies and especially monetary donations would be the most beneficial to the family at this time. Please consider assisting this family recover from such a devastating loss.

“Harper Woods is a great community, and we have always looked out for each other. Please consider making a donation to help one of our families in this difficult time,” Burke stated in the report.

A GoFundMe site was created to help the family. As of the middle of last week, the site,, had raised more than $1,400 of a $250,000 goal less than a week after the site was set up.

“The money raised in that GoFundMe site is only a portion of what has been received so far,” Burke said.

“It was a terrible tragedy,” Burke said. “We’re glad that they weren’t hurt, but unfortunately, they lost everything.”

Donations have included some clothing and other items.

Harville is hoping more people can help the family. The family was staying with family members, so housing was still needed as well as furniture and many other items.

“They still need a lot of help,” he said, adding that the response from the community so far has been good, “but we’re still reaching out for help.”

The fire swept through the family’s home in the 19700 block of Elkhart during the afternoon Feb. 9, causing severe damage to the structure despite efforts to stop the blaze.

A neighbor who called 911 reported that children lived in the home, and he believed that they might be inside. When public safety officers arrived seconds later, they made sure that no one was inside the home.

However, the fire, which started on the second story of the home, was already causing significant damage to the structure.

“Flames were coming out of the second-story window,” Public Safety Department Lt. John Vorgitch said.

The Fire Department took command of the scene and pulled a second alarm, which brought Grosse Pointe Woods to help.

“At that point, they realized that they weren’t going to be able to do an interior attack,” Vorgitch said.

A third alarm was called, and Grosse Pointe Farms responded with its ladder truck to assist with the battle on the exterior of the home.

Other than one Harper Woods public safety officer with what was described as a minor back injury, no injuries were reported.

The fire was heavily involved when the call came in, officials said.

“The roof started collapsing, I’d say, within 15 minutes of the Fire Department being on scene,” Vorgitch said.

“It looks like the house is going to be a total loss,” Vorgitch said Feb. 9.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Crews from all three cities worked together at the scene to get the fire under control, officials said.

“It was a good job all around,” Burke said.

Anyone who wants to donate to help the family can contact Harville at New Life Ministries, 19678 Lochmoor. The phone number is (313) 526-9000. Someone will be available to take donations every day at the church from noon-7 p.m.

The Harper Woods Public Safety Department listed sizes and other information through