VERO BEACH, Fla. - Ruined debris and ashes are all that's left of Scott and Lisa Chnupa's home.
"You just don't expect this to happen," said Lisa. "You are never prepared for it. People ask you what you would grab, and you just don't have time to think."
Scott has been an Indian River County firefighter for 21 years. He never imagined one day, he would have to deal with a blaze of his own.
"It's a little different being on the other side of things," Scott said.
His worst nightmare came true just after midnight last Thursday.
"We were sleeping," he recalled. "(My son) Tanner come running in and yelled 'Dad, the house is on fire.'"
Lisa jumped out of bed.
"I ran into the back yard," she said. "I turned around, and looked into the direction of the garage. All I could see was just this orange glow."
Scott, Lisa, their children and grandchildren escaped with only the clothing on their backs.
"There's nothing left," said Scott, sifting through the ashes.
Indian River County firefighters, Scott's coworkers, responded quickly. Scott, wearing only his pants, grabbed a hose and started fighting his own fire.
"A fireman's instinct," he said, of his actions. "Trying to get to the fire to put it out. My son's the real hero. He kept a level head. Without him, we wouldn't be here."
Lisa said when she said her husband pick up the hose, she couldn't even watch.
"I think I knew in my heart at that point, that they weren't going to be able to stop it," she said, with tears in her eyes.
Their nine-year-old dog, PeeWee, did not get out in time, and her body was later found under their bed.
The family said the community support has been overwhelming. They're staying at a hotel with financial assistance from family and friends, and also the American Red Cross.
Scott plans to return to work on Saturday, for his first day back on the job after his house burned.
In less than two hours, his family lost their home. Now, the family says all they have is each other.
"But it's all material stuff," said Scott. "We got out alive."
Local firefighters and community supporters have teamed up to help the Chnupa family, and you can help, too.
Scott Chnupa's firefighter "brothers" are helping out the family with a fundraiser raffle.
To enter, head over to the Indian River County Firefighters Fair in Vero Beach and look for the "Own It Now" booth in the exhibition hall.
For $5, you can enter to win your choice of a living room, dining room or bedroom set donated by Ashley Furniture.
"Whatever money is collected will go to the Chnupa family," said Toby Turner, a firefighter for Indian River County heading up the Firefighters Fair. "They can use it as they wish for themselves to cover their needs. They will also get one of the other furniture sets that is not given away, but the other person who wins the raffle ticket can get that furniture and take it home or they can do whatever they want with it."
The raffle will take place at the fair Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Fair hours are from 5pm to midnight each night.
For other ways to donate to the Chnupa family, visit these two links below:
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