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5 kids, grandmother escape accidental cooking fire in Lakeland

Posted at 6:14 AM, May 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-30 06:14:47-04

LAKELAND, Fla. — A Lakeland grandmother and her grandkids are thankful to be alive after a fire gutted their kitchen.

“Baby, I want to cry but I don’t want to cry," said Lenola Penix, the grandmother whose home caught fire. “I thought I might get hurt. Might get killed. I thought I might die. But I didn’t want them to die."

Penix said she was hanging out with her five grandkids, all under the age of nine, when she started to cook dinner. Penix sat back down while grease got hot on the stove and she said just moments later she smelled smoke.

"She starts hollering 'Nana, Nana, Nana, the kitchen is on fire.' I said, 'oh my god,' so I went to go and I tripped. I tripped and fell and I couldn’t get back up because I’m 70 years old," Penix explained.

Penix pleaded for her grandkids to get out of the house.

“They didn’t want to get out. I begged them to get out. They didn’t want to get out, begged them, 'get out, get out.' 'No Nana, we’re scared we’re scared.' 'Get out or you’re going to burn to death, get out,'" Penix said.

Without a thought 9-year-old Zniayah Armstrong jumped into action.

"My grandma couldn’t get up so I had to think. I had to think. I had to be in action and so I at least tried to tell her to scoot at least a little bit away from the fire and I couldn’t help her get up so I ran out the side and got the neighbors so they could help her get out," Armstrong said.

A terrifying moment, but Armstrong wasn’t leaving her grandma behind.

“I was scared and I thought we were going to like lose our lives but I just knew not to give up," Armstrong added.

The Lakeland Fire Department ruled the fire to be an accidental cooking fire and everyone involved is now safe.

“I feel happy that we’re all alive and that God let us be here today. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you," Armstrong said.