Crystal Mouse and her husband returned to their home in Gentry after it was damaged by fire over the weekend.
The family of 11 is searching for a new place to live in time for the holidays.
“With Christmas coming up and losing the house and now we have to find a new home. It’s just really emotional right now,” Crystal Mouse said.
Mouse’s family and their two chihuahuas, Hope and Joy, survived the fire. However they lost most of their belongings.
“We were sitting out here and my son was crying on my shoulder,” Mouse said with tears in her eyes. “He goes, ‘I can’t take this mom ‘I’ve lost everything.’”
It would be the family’s first fire of the year and they wanted to warm up on a chilly Saturday night. They had enjoyed fires last year and had no reason to think anything would go wrong.
What they didn’t know was their foundation had settled, causing a slight separation between their chimney and fireplace. When the logs in the fireplace started crackling, the flames shot quickly into the walls of the house.
“I guess it was the biggest mistake of our lives,” Mouse said.
It took the Gentry Fire Department more than four hours to put out the blaze.
The entire upstairs is destroyed, the living room ceiling is gone and there is a fair amount of water damage, Mouse said. Gentry Fire Chief Vester Cripps estimated a quarter of the house was destroyed.
“It’s pretty bad,” Mouse said. “We’re trying to rebuild and get over what happened. We don’t know what’s salvageable or not.”
Mouse is going through chemotherapy for Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer originating from the white blood cells. She said dealing with that and being displaced is stressful.
Her daughter Ava, 15, said she has to be strong for her younger siblings. She remembers telling her younger brother what’s important.
“Just don’t worry about that stuff that’s in there, be happy that we are out here safe cause that stuff in there is replaceable but we are not,” Ava said.
Some of the children are adopted and they range from 18 months to 17 years of age.
Mouse said she’s thankful for the many people in the community who have reached out to them.
“I’m just happy that everyone is there to help us,” Mouse said.
A Facebook page has been set up for those wishing to make a donation to the family, click here for more information.