Milwaukee family gets Christmas surprise after house fire

A house fire left a Milwaukee family with eight children with next to nothing right before the holidays, but the community came together to deliver an unexpected Christmas Day surprise.

A fire station is not the first place a family might imagine spending Christmas morning, but one mom called it the best Christmas yet.

"It’s so much stress to go through a disaster like this," said Roshunda Tolbert. "House fire, losing your life in the blink of an eye."

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It can take just minutes to lose almost everything. No home, no clothes and no Christmas presents, the fire left a void for Tolbert and her eight kids.

"Christmas a couple days away," Tolbert said. "(The kids) don’t understand, we can’t have Christmas because of the fire. They’re kids."

Fire near 35th and Auer in Milwaukee

Christmas morning did not start under the tree at home, because at Milwaukee Fire Station 24, firefighters were shooting for something bigger: Presents from the Milwaukee Fire Department and even the Milwaukee Bucks.

"It’s so heartwarming. The Bucks thought about us," Tolbert said.

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"Seeing how happy they are – and they’re back here having fun now – it’s really great to see," said MFD Lt. Jake Hinsenkamp.

The last time Hinsenkamp saw Tolbert's 9-year-old son, Victor, he was helping the boy down from a second-story porch as his home burned.

"I was on fire – I don’t know, I couldn’t see myself," said Victor.

Aftermath of Milwaukee house fire near 35th and Auer

"There was a ton of fire, and there’s a child trapped. It’s a super stressful situation," Hinsenkamp said.

Where words were not enough, the kids' faces said it all.

"I’m meeting a hero," Tolbert said. "I’m overwhelmed. I have so much to say, but it’s like I can’t think of it."

Roshunda Tolbert and family; 35th and Auer house fire

Where the fire left a void, generosity did not just pour in – it overflowed.

"I had enemies making contributions, enemies catching my baby from the roof," said Tolbert.

This Christmas, the best of all could not be wrapped. For those precious minutes, a family did not think about the home they lost – gaining memories that will last a lifetime.

"The community has given my kids the best Christmas ever – ever. They will never forget this Christmas," said Tolbert.

Milwaukee firefighters with Roshunda Tolbert and her kids on Christmas

Tolbert told FOX6 News that she and her family have found another home to move into next week that is even better than their old one.

In the week since the fire, a GoFundMe online fundraiser raised roughly $15,000 – something Tolbert said she is grateful for.

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