December 26, 2002 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

UNION — Things looked bad Sunday for Christmas finding its way to the Nicole and Kevin Gannon family after a fire gutted their rental home about mid-day.

But volunteer efforts and the sharp eyes of the community's firefighters made sure that the Gannons' two young children had presents to open Wednesday morning.

"The family has had several (places to stay) offered to them," Union Fire Chief Bill Hooker said Thursday.

They've found a three-bedroom home to stay in, and there have been donations of furniture, groceries and other household supplies.

Hooker said that when firefighters arrived at the burning home on South College Street Sunday there was fear that some members of the family might still be inside.

But a Union police officer, first on the scene after a neighbor spotted the fire, was able to kick in the door and assure them that the home was empty except for the family's dogs and cat that were lost in the fire.

Hooker said that Kevin Gannon apparently was out of town while Nicole Gannon and the children, ages 6 and 8, were elsewhere in Union.

Firefighters quickly spotted the family's Christmas gifts and were able to remove them from the home. The items were taken to the fire station and rewrapped, Hooker said.

Several items of new clothing were also taken back to J.C. Penney's in La Grande, where the store replaced the items, added a few more and helped rewrap them.

Hooker said Thursday he'd had a chance to talk to the Gannons and "the family is doing real well."

But the house, owned by Kerry Boyd, is "a total loss," Hooker said.The house's upstairs and back are "completely gone."

A state fire marshal's office investigator is expected to visit the site early next week. Hooker said an insurance adjuster was at the scene Thursday. When both are done, an official report on the cause of the fire will be released.

While the house may not have been saved, Hooker is proud of how his firefighters and the community responded.

"The kids ended up with a Christmas," he said.