GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Robert Scales says he was at work when he got the call that would change his life forever.
A neighbor was on the phone to tell him there was smoke coming from his home on Dawes Street in Grand Rapids. The fire would ultimately claim the life of his wife and their three children.
Scales identified the victims Wednesday evening as Wanedia Scales, 35, Xavier Woldeab, 15, Robert Scales, Jr, 14, and Elijah Scales, 10.
“A neighbor actually called me and told me they seen the smoke and you know, I came running,” Scales told News 8 Wednesday evening near the scene of the fire. “I got here too late. There was nothing I could do at that point.”
Scales said he watched as firefighters worked to resuscitate the victims on the front lawn of the home as it burned.
“It was just a waiting game at that point. I had to let them do their job,” Scales said. “I thank them ’cause they did a wonderful job.”
Wanedia Scales was pronounced dead at the scene. Xavier was rushed away by ambulance but died shortly thereafter. The other two children were treated at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital but could not be saved.
“It’s a lot of questions I have. It may take time for the answers to come out,” Scales said. “But I know God got something else for me, so.”
Scales described his wife as a woman with a “beautiful soul.”
“You know like, even with the most recent event — what happened with Kobe Bryant — she used that as an example like, always tell your family you love them,” he said. “It may be the last time you ever see them.”
Xavier, Robert Jr., and Elijah were known to cut grass and do yard work in the neighborhood.
“They was angels, flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood,” Scales said. “They were my babies, very happy young men.”
More than 20 people gathered outside the home where the tragedy took place. Some sobbed uncontrollably at times. Loved ones held candles and spoke of their loss.
Fire investigators declined to discuss details about their findings as to the fire’s cause and origin but said an investigation continued Tuesday evening.
Grand Rapids Fire Department investigator Lt. Bill Smith said he’d made no declaration as to whether the fire was suspicious in nature. He said his department was working in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Police Department as it always does when fires involve a fatality.
Scales said the tragedy reinforces an important lesson.
“Cherish family,” he said. “Never take your family for granted… We prayed everyday. I know they in a better place.”