Kristina Dirk said Shelly Bergman is her family's guardian angel.

"She's an amazing woman. Shelly woke us up," Dirk said, speaking less than a day after a fire engulfed her family's home north of Mandan.

Kyle and Kristina Dirk, their 8-, 4- and 1-year-old sons were able to escape the late night house fire, along with their 11-month-old golden retriever, Hank. The fire started from a vehicle in the driveway which spread to their garage and home.

"I looked out my window and it was on fire, and they were sleeping," said Bergman, who lives across the street. "They are just so lucky."

Fire personnel responded to the call around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, staying until 3:30 a.m. Wednesday but returning for rekindled debris in the basement at 6 a.m.

"We were trying to knock down the fire, but the whole roof had fallen in, so we had to go on the defensive and let it go," Mandan Rural Fire Chief Lynn Gustin said.

Kristina Dirk said her family is hoping to stay at a hotel in the wake of the fire, which claimed everything they own.

Her husband owns a concrete business while she works at the state Department of Human Services.

The aftermath has been difficult for their sons, Dirk added. Their 4-year-old has struggled to understand why or what happened, while his 8-year-old brother lost all his hockey gear, school backpack and other beloved belongings.

"For an 8-year-old, it's a pretty tragic event," Dirk said. "He lost all of his possessions, and, while they are only possessions, for an 8-year-old, those are pretty big things."

She added the family planned to meet today with the Red Cross. At the same time, a local relief effort began.

Justin Dunn, who shares a daughter with Kristina Dirk, helped start the effort with his wife, Shannon. The response has been "absolutely amazing," he said of the donations that have included jackets, blankets, clothing, toys and monetary contributions,

Kristina Dirk thanked the Dunns and others who have helped them in the wake of the fire — from their neighbor who took in Hank last night, to her coworkers at the Capitol.

"I can't say thank you enough," she said. "We're just all happy that we're alive. No injuries, no deaths; thank you to everyone."

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or