by Pilar Pedraza
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
2:16 PM CST, December 25, 2012
(VALLEY CENTER, Kan.)
"Yeah, it's Christmas," said Lonnie Tormey, the Valley Center Fire Chief. "Bad deal. Bad deal."
A garage fire stunned a Valley Center community Christmas Day, leaving one family without a home this holiday. But this is one family, and a neighborhood, that's used to dealing with life's struggles.
"Kind of a sad story," said neighbor Jack George.
The Sanderson family left home Christmas morning to celebrate. They came back in the afternoon to pick up the pieces. But sad stories are something the Sandersons have survived before.
"They've had some hard times," said George.
Bryan Sanderson has liver problems and needs a transplant.
"You know, it's one of these things, it just kind of keeps snowballing on them," said George.
Two years ago Sanderson's then seven year old son organized a community drive to collect aluminum cans to help pay for his dad's medical bills. The entire neighborhood showed up to help and made a promise.
"They have been saying they will pray for us," said Reid Sanderson at the time.
Bryan Sanderson hasn't gotten his transplant yet, but his health has improved...
"They were beginning to get back on their feet again," George said. "And then this happens."
Long before you could even hear the fire trucks or see the house, you could smell the smoke coming from it. The smell of smoke permeated the air hours later.
"It was pretty much involved in flames by the time the fire department got here," said George.
Neighbors are the ones who saw the smoke and called 911, then notified the Sandersons. The fire started in the garage, which is now destroyed.
"The rest of the house has some smoke and water damage," said Tormey. "It's not liveable. That house is not liveable right now." The fire also claimed the lives of the families pets, two dogs and a cat.
But already their neighbors are stepping up with offers of blankets, coats, gloves and a familiar promise.
"Everybody's praying for them and we're hoping for the best for them," said George.
The Sanderson's tell Eyewitness News a state fire inspector says the fire began in a second car left in the garage. In addition, water and smoke damage is so bad throughout the rest of the house, they say nothing can be salvaged.
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