A hospital has become home for a Sioux Falls family Friday night. Fire forced them out of their North Elmwood Avenue apartment Thursday.
Nicole McKnelly was home with her eight month-old daughter and two sons around 10 p.m. Thursday when the fire broke out. She was asleep on the living room sofa while her boys were snuggled in their beds. The boys sustained injuries, but everyone made it out. McKnelly says the ordeal is just sinking in because everything the family had was in their apartment.
"[There was] wood crackling," she said. "As soon as I opened my eyes, all I could see was smoke."
Nicole McKnelly had her infant daughter in hand. She quickly got her to safety through the living room patio door. That's when McKnelly tried to get back in. Her boys were asleep in a back bedroom next to the bathroom where the fire sparked.
"I came out screaming hysterically. "my Kids, My kids. Somebody help me," she said.
And they did. Neighbors came from all directions.
"If it wasn't for them breaking the window, I probably would have lost my boys," she said.
Fire crews say the flames spread fast. It took multiple trucks and dozens of fire rescue members to put the blaze out. Now only a charred apartment remains.
"Clothes for my boys. They were crying about their toys and their school backpack was gone," McKnelly said.
She is wearing the only shirt she has left. It is still covered in soot under her hospital scrubs. But like any mom, McKnelly's first instinct is to protect Treyshawn, 7, who suffered first degree burns, Damon, 6, still battling smoke inhalation.
"It's kind of been like a roller coaster," she said. "Up and down. Damon will be fine one moment, and now he's in O.R."
"I don't know what else I can do. There's nothing else I can do," McKnelly said holding back a tear.
The family hopes to be out of the hospital in a few days. They will stay with relatives after that. An aunt is coordinating donation efforts to replace lost items, especially urgent needs like diapers, baby formula and children's clothing.
Call 605-376-7260 to help.