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Family safe, Christmas gifts saved in Mattawan house fire

MATTAWAN, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) On this Christmas Day, a family from Van Buren County is homeless after an early morning fire.

The fire broke out at a home on Concord Avenue in Mattawan around 5:30 a.m.

Two fire departments battled the flames for several hours.

Firefighters believe it started in the attic making it a hard fire to fight.

Newschannel 3 talked to the family Wednesday.

James and Karen Carlisle had a very scary wake-up call this Christmas.

"She woke me up to go flip the breaker because we thought it was just the breaker that blew and outside saw smoke in the garage and it was full," said James Carlisle.

The couple and their four kids, aged 6 to 16, made a safe escape and called 911.

They stood on the front lawn and watched the fire spread from the attic to the rest of their family home.

"There's no words to explain it," Carlisle said..

But there was a bright spot on this dark Christmas morning.

"Thankfully there was a police officer who was first on the scene and he went in and started grabbing our Christmas presents so our kids could still have Christmas," Carlisle said. 

Crews were also able to save the Christmas tree and family photos.

"That's what helped us the biggest because that gave them some normalcy from the tragic event that happened," Carlisle said. 

"It makes you feel good that you can get things out, I just wish we could do more than what we were able to do," said Chief Terron McLean of the Mattawan Fire Department.

The fire chief said it appears the fire was caused by electrical wiring in the attic.

The family said they had been having electrical problems over the past couple days.

Right now they're staying with family in the area and thankful that everyone's together and safe this Christmas.

"We're a family, we're here, we're going to survive this as a family and we'll figure it out as we get there," Carlisle said. 

The family says theyre in the process of setting up a donation fund at Kalsee Credit Union in Kalamazoo.

Donations can also be sent to:

59183 Whitewood Drive
Mattawan, MI 49701