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'I just want get back to normal': Murray family talks after being displaced by Christmas Day fire

Posted at 10:11 PM, Dec 26, 2022

MURRAY, Utah — What started out as a normal Christmas afternoon for James Gennock changed in just a matter of minutes.

"We had a small fire in the fireplace, [I] remember throwing a paper plate in the fireplace and then I smelled something weird," said Gennock.

That's when he went upstairs.

"I could smell smoke and I just yelled downstairs to get everybody out of the house, called 911," he said.

The Murray City Fire Department said it was called to the scene near 5900 South and 250 West around 1:30 Sunday afternoon. Crews arrived quickly and found heavy smoke on the second floor of the condos.

"I can't even imagine what would have happened if they wouldn't have gotten here in the time that they did," said Gennock.

Fire officials said all four units of the condo building were evacuated. They said two units were primarily involved because they shared a common wall, which is where investigators believe the fire started.

"Just amazed that the smoke damage, the damage to the upstairs... the loss of food and like the bedding and the furniture with the smoke," said Gennock.

He said the damage inside was extensive enough that the restoration company told him it could be three months before they can live here again.

Fire officials said smoke damage also displaced Gennock's neighbor.

Luckily, Gennock says, they were able to get everyone out of his unit safely. That includes their two cats, Gypsy and Patches, as well as their parrot, Sam.

"When I was 15, we had a fire at our house, so I knew what they were going through," said Timothy Stillman, a relative of Gennock.

That's why Stillman is stepping up to help his family in their time of need.

"We gave them our master bedroom, so they pretty much moved what they could in... the few clothes that they were able to take; their pets are all up there," said Stillman.

With the damage left behind, both Stillman and Gennock say it could have been much worse had Gennock not acted on his instincts when he noticed an odd smell inside his home.

"I went upstairs, I was like, 'Oh, here it is, we've got to go and if I'm wrong, that's just the way it's going be,'" said Gennock.

"There's two other condos connected to it on the other side. It could have taken all four of them out, you know? Somebody could have lost their lives," Stillman added.

While Gennock, his family, his neighbor and all of their pets are OK, he says with the strength and help of his family, he is going to try to do his best to get through this situation.

"I just want get back to normal as soon as possible," he said.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help both families that have been affected by the fire.