Jennifer Pierce says she's counting her blessings.
A Tuesday evening fire and its aftermath destroyed a two-story rental home she shared with her children, Robert, 11; Trista, 9; and Jaden, 8.
Still, "I'm just so thankful that me and my kids are out and we're all safe," she said Friday.
Jennifer's children and some neighborhood kids were in the living room when she decided to make a quick run to a neighbor's house to load laundry since her machines were broken.
Before leaving the townhouse, located in the Crape Myrtle Townhomes complex on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, she said she set the stove to cook hot dogs, baked beans and french fries.
She returned to find the home ablaze.
"It was engulfed in flames," she said.
That it happened so fast was shocking.
"I turned it (the stove) on, I gathered up my clothes .... I literally walked two doors down, threw my clothes in the washer and came back to my house, in a two- or three-minute span of time," she said.
The Crestview Fire Department referred to the incident as an "accidental stove cooking fire," according to a news release. It caused about $75,000 in property damage and $10,000 in damage to contents.
First responders from the Crestview Fire Department, North Okaloosa Fire District and Eglin Air Force Base Fire Department responded to the residence.
Firefighters put "huge holes in the ceiling" to pour 500 gallons of water into the house and contain the blaze, Jennifer said.
But prior to that, Robert's inner hero emerged.
"My 11-year-old, he manned up that night and was the one getting fire extinguishers," Jennifer said. "He was running to different apartments and getting fire extinguishers ... I don't know where he learned to do that. I'm truly blessed ... We definitely had God on our side that night."
Now, it's time to start over. Red Cross funding will allow the family to stay at Comfort Inn in Crestview through Monday. In the meantime, Jennifer is searching for an apartment, thinking of all the furniture that needs replacing (she had no renter's insurance), and thinking about how much it will cost.
The housekeeper, who works in Destin, says business has been slow this year; that's meant working about three days each week, and "by the time gas and all (the bills) comes out it ain't really much," she said of her income.
"I'm a single mother ... I'm all I got with my three kids. I get no help from nobody else."
Any donations would help, Jennifer said. No fund has been set up, as of this writing, but anyone wishing to contribute toward the family's needs, which include furniture, clothes and other household staples, can call her at 850-307-7278.
For now, she'll try to salvage what's left from the fire.
"I may get my pictures out of a Rubbermaid container upstairs, but that's about it," she said.