Catherine Ross, NBC 5 Collin County Reporter
A Christmas tree fire destroyed a Plano family's home and left a grandfather dead on Christmas Eve. Now neighbors and friends are trying to help the Neary family overcome the tragedy.
A Plano family's Christmas tree went up in flames, destroying their home and killing a family member on Christmas Eve. Now neighbors and friends are looking to help them get back on their feet.
Jeff Neary says it took less than a minute for the family Christmas tree to go up in flames, forcing him to flee the home with his wife and their two children, wearing just the clothes on their backs.
"You never think it will be you, you don't" he said. "You never think about everything you have being gone."
The fire, however, claimed the life of Neary's father, 87-year-old Bill Neary, who was staying at the home.
Aside from finding clothes and bouncing from friends' homes to a hotel suite paid for by their insurance company, Neary says he must deal with his own grief, as well as explain to his children, ages seven and nearly four, about why their grandfather isn't coming home.
"My dad was the world's greatest human being," he said.
Out of tragedy, however, comes the inspiration to help.
The Neary family says neighbors and friends have gone above and beyond to provide in terms of clothing and toys for the children, even buying temporary cell phones for the adults, given that their phones and computers went up in flames.
"It's been heart lifting," said Neary.
Neighbor and friend Betty Trombetta is collecting donations for the Neary family through her established ministry, Texas Agape House in Plano.
She says practical items like food and gas gift cards are most needed, given that the family lost one of its vehicles and will be eating out for most of its meals.
They are accepting donations through the ministry post office box:
Texas Agape House
P.O. Box 867242
Plano, TX 75086.
Those interested in helping may also call 972-769-9769.
Neary says his family plans to rebuild the home.