Kirk Van Slyke was sitting down to a late Thursday evening dinner with his family when he smelled something was wrong.
He said smoky, almost "painty" fumes were coming from the carport area, attached to the family's mobile home at 2470 Estabrook in the Columbia Heights court. Then the lights began to flicker.
When Van Slyke opened the front door to check it out, he found the family's Chevy Suburban and much of the carport engulfed in flames.
"I just shut the door and told everyone to run," Van Slyke said.
Minutes later, the Van Slyke's home of only seven months was ablaze.
Van Slyke, his wife, Carolyn, four of their five children and the family dog, Lucky, found brief refuge at a nearby neighbor's house while Grand Forks fire and police crews put the fire out. One of the Van Slyke's sons was staying with a friend when the fire started.
Van Slyke said their home and its contents were insured as much as possible.
A strong wind blew the smoke from the fire miles across the Grand Forks skyline. A nearby baseball game at Kraft Field was covered with a thick smoky haze.
Crowds gathered on streets and in front yards, some with cameras, watching firefighters do their work.
Van Slyke said he suspects that some problem with the Suburban may have started the fire. His wife had just driven it home, he said.
Jim Broten, Grand Forks fire battalion chief, said the fire call came in shortly before 9 p.m. A fire marshal looked over the scorched remains of the mobile home Thursday night and is expected to be back on site today to determine a cause.
"At this point, we don't know what the cause is," Broten said.
Broten said someone would be assigned to stay with the house overnight to watch for flare ups. He said the home is a total loss, "without a doubt."
Van Slyke said that he and his family only recently moved to Grand Forks from western Wyoming. Van Slyke currently is enrolled in UND's physical therapy program. The Van Slyke children are ages 13, 11, 8, 4 and 3.
The American Red Cross is providing lodging and other services for the family.
After the fire was brought under control Thursday night, Van Slyke said that all he cared about was that nobody got hurt.
"We're as good can be expected after a fire - it's just a house - and everyone got out safe," Van Slyke said.
Distributed by the Associated Press