On June 24 Kim Bergman woke up around 3 a.m. to a slight orange glow coming through her window and sighed at the thought of getting out of her comfortable bed. It wasn’t until she heard the smoke alarm going off that she realized something about that glow wasn’t right.

The fire had originated in the shed attached to their home and was quickly spreading through the attic. As Bergman opened the French doors to her bedroom and saw the flames she yelled to her husband, Eric, to get the kids, and a friend who was visiting at the time, out of the home.

Everyone made it out safely, but the house was a complete loss. The fire hydrant just outside the Bergman’s home on Bannock Street in Ahwatukee Foothills was broken, and in the time it had taken firefighters to find out that it was not functioning correctly the flames had taken over every room.

The scene was heartbreaking for the family, but neighbors wasted no time coming to the rescue.

“Literally, the house was still on fire and people were bringing food,” Bergman said.

The Bergmans have lived on their street for 20 years and have been active in the community during that time. Bergman said they know all their neighbors. As they stood out on the street in pajamas people were already offering clothes. 

The Red Cross was able to find the family a hotel and now they’ve been placed in a rental home while their home is being rebuilt, but the Bergmans have a lot more to rebuild. They’ve spent hours digging through the ashes trying to rescue mementoes, but they have no clothes, no electronics, no personal records and two daughters — one in college and one getting ready to leave for college — who were both home for the summer when the fire happened. It has become a full-time job for Bergman to work through all of the insurance.

Their neighborhood organized a barbecue on July 7 to kick-off a gift card drive for the family. It has been difficult for the Bergmans to accept help, but every bit has been appreciated.

“The overwhelming generosity of people has really touched us,” Bergman said. “We’ve been here a long time and we know a lot of people, but even people we don’t know have come out to help. You hear about so many crummy people but I wish more people would focus on the good… Ahwatukee has done a lot of nice things lately. It’s a really great place to live.”

The family is just grateful that they, and all four of their pets, are OK.

“A few days after we lost our home, 19 firefighters lost their lives,” Bergman said. “I’m not burying somebody. I have my family intact and I truly believe wherever we are it’s our home.”

The cause of the fire is unknown. Bergman’s advice to all is to check your smoke alarms. It’s what saved their family.

“I’ve heard so many people tell me they took them down because they were painting or they just got new ones that are still in the box,” she said. “Some people have told me they took theirs down because it goes off when they make toast. I’ve heard every excuse short of ‘My dog ate my homework.’ It’s so critical. The smoke alarm is really what jolted me awake. You think it will never happen to you, but people shouldn’t say that. This was nothing we did and no lack of due diligence. It was literally we went to bed after a great evening and three hours later the house was on fire.”

Friends of the Bergmans are still collecting items for the family. To help out, contact Gary Colin at gary@garycolin.com or Sheila Coonen, with Connecting to Serve, at scoonen@connectingtoserve.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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