MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Residents of Chaska are reaching out to their neighbors in need. The three families who resided in a downtown triplex have nowhere to call home after a fire swept through a historic home.

Nine people lived in the three apartments in the historic Ess home located at East 2nd and North Walnut streets. Fortunately, nobody was home around 10 a.m. Thursday when the accidental fire began.

On Friday, the putrid and choking smell of smoke still hung in the air.

Inside the charred shell of a home is where Garret Kirch was raising his family of five.

“It’s overwhelming, it’s scary.” Kirsch said, standing outside the house.

But the young father’s words don’t begin to reveal the true depth of the hurt. One look inside the front doorway and you can immediately begin to understand what it means to lose everything.

You see the blackened remains of furnishings, including the crib where his 1-year old daughter, Layla, would sleep. Then there are all the clothes that his other children, Jaden and Logan, once wore.

“I didn’t think about it until the kids brought it up,” Kirch said. “They don’t have any clothes to wear for the next day of school, there’s just so much to think about.”

Two other families lived in the apartments upstairs. Tori and Nick Vogel are a newly married couple. In the other unit lived Kirch’s co-worker, Nathan Sund, and his 5-year-old daughter, Natalie.

He’s “a single dad, where his home was important, and that’s where he spent quality time with his kid,” Kirch said. “That was a big loss for him.”

Sund’s dog, Jax, was the only pet to escape the fire alive. He is now getting emergency veterinary care with oxygen at a local clinic. A fund has been set up to help with the expenses.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Sadly, the Kirch family lost their Jack Russell Terrier named Barkley.

With Christmas just around the corner, his son Logan was looking forward to time at home.

“I was hoping I’d be able to spend break at this house, inside with my dog, but now both of them are gone,” he said.

Also gone are the presents already under their artificial Christmas tree.

“I just spent my Christmas bonus on them,” Garret Kirch said.

But there’s truly, only one gift that matters – the gift of life.

“All the support of these people, the people who are coming out of the woodwork,” Kirch said. “I can’t leave now.”

Already, businesses and churches in town are pulling together to collect needed items for the three families.

A fund is being established at the Kline Bank’s Chaska branch. Also, donations will be accepted at St. John’s Lutheran Church.

If you’d like to help, you can go to the Facebook page.