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Family tries to recover after fire destroys their home
A fire Thursday damaged this house on Brookstone Circle in Sterling on the Lake subdivision. Some in the community have been collecting money to help the owners, who were displaced by the fire.A fire Thursday damaged this house on Brookstone Circle in Sterling on the Lake subdivision. Some in the community have been collecting money to help the owners, who were displaced by the fire. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

To help

Donations are being taken at the Sterling on the Lake clubhouse. The subdivision is located off Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch.

The Fox family needs a little help from their friends.

On Thursday, their house on Brookstone Circle at Sterling on the Lake in Flowery Branch was destroyed by fire, and donations are already pouring in from the community.

"It’s been overwhelming," Gina Fox said Monday afternoon, wearing a mask while walking around her home. "The message spread and people came to help."

Fox came home from working at the hospital and slept for a few hours before the back side of the house caught fire.

"I woke up when my husband got home early, and we were goofing around," she said. "I went downstairs, and the kids were running down. I opened the blinds, and the whole back of the house was in flames."

Gina’s husband Steve and their children — Nick, 13, Stephanie, 12 and Ben, 5 — dashed out of the house. An electrical fire that started on the back deck gutted the house, and officials are still trying to determine what caused the spark.

"We responded to the fire around 5:30 (p.m.), and it was already about 40 percent involved, so it had a head start on us," Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said. "It’s a presumed electrical fire. We recorded it as an accidental fire still under investigation."

Fox expressed concern about the firefighters entering the house, especially when parts of the roof started collapsing.

"This is just ... you could tell, a very tight-knit, close family," Cagle said. "They were worried — at times more worried about the firefighters than they were their own possessions. And they lost just about everything they had, so we hope they get back on their feet soon."

The family stood outside as the house burned.

"No one was hurt, but I don’t know what would have happened had we not all been together," Fox said.

Community members came together to donate clothes and toiletries. Flowery Branch Interim Mayor Mike Miller gave money to put the family in a hotel room, and City Council members came out to offer help. Within an hour of the fire, neighbors raised $450 for the family.

"The clubhouse is now taking donations, and the other neighbors have been amazing," said Kevin McAllorum, a Gooseneck Place resident who walked around the house with Fox on Monday. "The firefighters were incredible, and we’re very grateful everyone got out."

The McAllorum and Fox residences are usually known for their elaborate Christmas light displays in the neighborhood.

"We’re usually the ones doing the charity," Fox said, glancing at bags of ash-covered belongings on her driveway.

At the July 4 fireworks event in Flowery Branch, the swim team took up parking fees to donate to the family, and an empty-nesters groups held a bake sale.

On Monday afternoon, the family sifted through items found in the house, creating an inventory of half-burned property, as neighbors helped to mow the grass and sort items. Several windows were covered by plywood, and others hung open with glass shards dangling on the window frames. A swingset, yards from the back of the house, stood unharmed.

"Everyone got out of the house," Fox said. "We may have lost everything, but we really haven’t."

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