EAST MEADOW - An East Meadow family is trying to pick up the pieces following a Christmas Eve fire that destroyed their home and all of their belongings.
Gil and Jeannie Phillips and their four children went out with relatives to celebrate the holiday on Tuesday. When they returned to their Bellmore Road home, they immediately knew something was wrong.
"The Christmas tree is right by the door, so usually you smell the tree," says Gil Phillips. "I didn't smell the tree, I smelled fuel oil."
He went to his boiler room and noticed some oil had spilled onto the floor. As he was wiping it up, the burner fired up and flames shot out, narrowly missing his face. The oil on the floor caught fire, and the flames spread and quickly intensified.
Phillips says the North Bellmore Fire Department responded quickly. The family was able to escape, but his daughter lost her pet bird. All of the family's belongings, including their Christmas presents, were lost in the flames.
Remarkably, one thing that was untouched by the fire was their Christmas tree.
The family has been staying with relatives and their insurance company tells them they will likely be able to move back into a rebuilt home by May 1.
In the meantime, they say donations have been pouring in from friends, family and strangers, and they're extremely grateful for all of the help. They hope to one day be able to pay it back.