TOLEDO, Ohio — Firefighters rescued three children, three adults and a dog from a north Toledo house fire on Friday. But while everyone is safe, the mother of the family said they lost almost everything.
Amanda Knezevich lived in the home with her three kids: 6-year-old Mandileu, 5-year-old Malaki and 10-month-old Amelianna. They are now unable to move back into the home that Knezevich said is lost due to smoke damage.
Motherly instincts kicked in for Knezevich as her children, her boyfriend, his relative and her dog were all in the home when the fire broke out due to one of the children intentionally starting it, according to a fire investigator. In need of safety, the group escaped to the roof because other exits were blocked.
"In that time or moment, I didn't know what to think," Knezevich said. I was just hoping my babies are going to be okay whether we make it out or not."
She said her boyfriend was able to make it out of the window first, but the window closed and locked her inside while smoke was filling the air around her.
"We fought over the window," Knezevich said. "We were finally able to bust the window open and that's when I start throwing the kids out. That's when he grabbed me out and the other family member as well."
Once they made it up on the roof, they pleaded for help.
"I didn't have a phone, (my boyfriend's) phone wouldn't work," Knezevich said. I'm holding a baby, I'm holding his other two kids too and I'm just screaming for help."
If it wasn't for a police officer patrolling and neighbors, she said they may not have made it. Responding Toledo police officers were able to catch the children after adults dropped them from the roof. The Toledo fire department arrived at the home minutes after.
Firefighters set ladders up for the adults who were on top of the roof. TFRD Pvt. Sterling Rahe said retreating to the roof was the safest decision for the family.
"They did the right thing in this instance," Rahe said. They could not go out through their primary exit, which would've been through the stairs, and out of the house," Rahe said. "So, they had a secondary exit which was through a window and out the porch."
Knezevich said she was then transported to the hospital due to smoke inhalation and was placed on oxygen for several hours.
Knezevich's her son lit a pizza box on fire and set it in a garbage can against the outside of the house, fire investigators confirmed.
The fire department also said the home did not have working smoke alarms.
Knezevich said she is taking full accountability moving forward as she sends her child off to fire prevention classes and therapy. While she said it's tough to lose so much, material objects can be replaced. Lives cannot.
"To be able to have all three babies to safety and us to safety means a lot. And I can't thank everyone enough," said Knezevich.
If you live in Toledo and need a smoke alarm, you can stop by your local fire station to pick up one.
Knezevich said their family is in need of donations, especially clothing and furniture. The family has a GoFundMe set up.