Family Loses Everything in Chatham Fire

Chatham, VA - A family of seven lost everything in a Chatham house fire Thursday night.

At least three children were inside the home at the time, but thanks to a neighbor, everyone made it out safely.

Danner, the fire marshal says unattended cooking is to blame.

A 10-year-old girl put a pan of grease on the stove, and within minutes, the house was engulfed in flames.

"I looked over and I saw smoke coming out of the attic," said Margaret Bracken, a neighbor.

Bracken was at home with her husband when she noticed something strange at her neighbors' home.

She looked through their window, where she saw children desperately fanning black smoke out of the kitchen.

That's when her husband - a former fireman - sprang into action.

"He went over and started yelling at them to get out of the house," said Bracken.

Bracken called 911, and crews were on the scene within minutes. Once the children were safe, Bracken's attention turned to her own home, where she keeps several oxygen tanks for her elderly mother who lives there.

"The thought of it spreading, it would have exploded our house," said Bracken.

Crews were able to put the fire out. Neighbors say one of the children was trying to make French fries and walked away from the stove. They say both parents were at the hospital at the time as the mother is recovering from a recent surgery.

"I don't even want to think about it, what would have happened to those children, because they were trying really hard to put that fire out," said Bracken.

Bracken is just glad that she and her husband were able to help, and she shares this advice to others who may find themselves in this unexpected position.

"Be a good neighbor, be vigilant, and teach your kids not to try to put out a fire, just to get out, because we can't replace them."

They were renting the home and it is unknown whether or not the landlord has been reached. The Red Cross is providing assistance for that family.