Family recounts fire that destroyed home after reigniting

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- A South Phoenix family’s home was gutted by a fire that sparked twice in the same day.

Jessica Sullivan and her husband spent hours Friday morning digging through their burned-out home, salvaging little more than a few bags' worth of personal items.

“Our whole life has changed. It’s just unreal,” she said, standing in a knee-high pile of rubble. “It’s like you’re in the Twilight Zone.”

Sullivan’s husband, Michael, awoke in the middle of the night to what he described as a “popping sound.” When he went to the storage area of the home, he discovered his water heater glowing.

He woke up his wife and two young children, and they all escaped.

Firefighters arrived at the home near 44th Street and Baseline Road within minutes and battled the flames, containing most of the damage to the storage area.

The Sullivans left the home to stay with family.

Firefighters stayed on scene for several hours, checking for hot spots. Confident the coast was clear, the crew left.

Hours later, flames started shooting out of the roof of the house and quickly spread to two adjacent townhomes.

A fire captain on scene Friday afternoon said the second fire might have started in the thick insulation in the attic, where an ember could have embedded itself.

"It's very unusual," said Phoenix Fire Capt. Ruben Saavedra. "All the fires I've had as a captain, I've never had a rekindle. ... There's a lot of different reasons why this might have started."

The investigation is still in the early stages, and the fire department plans to release more information on Monday.

Meanwhile, reality is setting in for the Sullivans.

“When the firemen came the first time, you think, ‘They put the fire out,’ you know? And they did their best but it was a big fire the first time,” Jessica Sullivan said.

She said it’s likely her family will never live in the home again, but she’s just happy everyone got out safely.

“We didn’t lose anyone so, you know, it’s all materialistic things, so we’ll make it," she said.

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