- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

ALEXANDRIA, Ind. (AP) - On Feb. 9, Katie Johnston was hanging out in the living room with her 2-week-old daughter, Braelynn Crisler, and a friend when she heard a crashing sound coming from her bedroom.

“I get up to look, and there’s a bright orange light coming from my bedroom,” she said.

As she got closer, Johnston saw the curtains were on fire. She grabbed the car seat she’d left near the entrance to the room and ran shoeless with her friend and baby to a neighbor’s house across the street.

With the home in the 100 block of Grant Street in Alexandria reduced to rubble, Johnston; her mother, Tiffany Wells; and Braelynn now live temporarily at the Eric Caldwell Fire Rescue House. It’s one of three homes in Madison County for victims of fire.

They are the fifth family this year served by Fire Rescue House, said Frank Caldwell, treasurer of the organization.

“We’re on a, sorry to say, record pace,” Caldwell noted.

Typically, the organization houses about one family a month and served 13 families in 2015, Caldwell said. A record 21 families were served by Fire Rescue House in 2014, he added.

Johnston said she’s not certain whether it was candles or a space heater that started the Feb. 9 blaze in Alexandria.

“I thought my mom blew them out,” she said of the candles.

By the time Wells returned from the store, the house was engulfed in flames.

“You couldn’t see the house. All there was was smoke,” Johnston said.

The family’s primary concern, however, was for Braelynn.

“We took her to the doctor to make sure she didn’t get smoke in her lungs,” Wells said. “She sounded really hoarse after the fire.”

In addition to clothing and household goods, the family lost heirlooms, Braelynn’s footprints and ultrasound pictures, and two cats and three kittens, who they believe died in the fire.

“We had everything we needed, and it was gone in an instant . Nothing in the house was savable,” said Wells.

She said she was buying the home, where she and her daughter have lived for nearly two years, on contract and had it nearly paid off.

Through the generosity of local businesses, and individual donors who have dropped off baby clothes, diapers and other items at the Alexandria Fire Department, the trio is starting to get back on their feet.

But the family, who hopes to remain in Alexandria, has a long way to go. Wells said she’s self-employed, owning a cleaning business, but business has been slow lately.

In addition, what little money she had saved was stolen by someone Wells trusted, she said.

The family has started a Go Fund Me campaign. But through Tuesday, only $30 had been donated.

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Source: The (Anderson) Herald-Bulletin, https://bit.ly/1oqeKbI

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Information from: The Herald Bulletin, https://www.theheraldbulletin.com

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