GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Friends of a young woman and her three children are in shock after they died in an overnight fire inside their home.
Fire crews responded to the home on Dawes Avenue SE around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday. Grand Rapids Fire Chief John Lehman said crews arrived to find heavy smoke and fire on the first floor and coming from the back of the house.
Lehman said his crews were quickly able to damper the flames enough to get inside. “There was a mother and three children that were brought out of the house and all of them were without breath or pulse and so CPR was initiated in the front yard.”
Wanedia Scales and her 15-year-old son were pronounced dead on scene. Her 14-year-old and 10-year-old sons were rushed to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital but did not survive.
Shanta Harris, who has lived next to the Scales family for about seven years, was at a loss for words Wednesday afternoon.
“They started trying to get control of the fire to get in there and they just started pulling them out from the front and the side and working on them ... it's different when you hear about houses being set on fire and then when you actually see it," Harris told FOX 17.
She says her children have played with the Scales' kids for years.
"I just don’t even know what to say, I just feel so bad for the family. I wanted to go over there and hug them," Harris recalled as she watched the home burn overnight.
John DeGraaf, a close family friend of the Scales family, was supposed to be picked up by Wanedia's husband Robert Wednesday morning for a job they were going to work together. His friends never showed, but when DeGraff got him on the phone a few hours later, "and he told me what happened, just devastated. Saddest day of my life," he said.
DeGraff said Robert Scales is one of his best friends and an extremely hard worker. "I don’t know how to act. I’ve never lost so many people at one time like this. You know, its hard to grasp. I’m looking at the boy’s room up there and I pray they didn’t suffer."
Just after 4 p.m. Wednesday neighbors began placing flowers, stuffed animals and other assorted items in front of the family's mailbox as a makeshift memorial.
It's something that grew in front of the home all day long.
Tammy Cruz and Karen Putnam were two that helped with the memorial.
These young men that lived here were very nice young boys," said Cruz."And it’s a huge tragedy it really is."
Many from the community came out Wednesday evening to offer support to Robert Scales during a vigil in front of the home.
“It’s a sad tragedy, but you know, God knows best,” said Putnam.
The family's heartbreak continued to echo among neighbors through the evening.
“I just feel so horrible," said Harris. "I don’t even know what to say. Those are good kids. Good family. Working class. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about them. I just feel so bad for the family”
Officials with Grand Rapids Public Schools tell FOX 17 they will offer counseling for students impacted by this tragedy.