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Fire leaves Tampa family of 14 homeless

Posted at 1:25 PM, Apr 14, 2016

Wearing masks and treading through soaked ash at least three inches deep, members of the Tibben family are trying to save anything they can from their home of 17 years.

"I look at it and I look at my babies and everybody is safe," said Carol Tibben, homeowner and grandmother.  "It doesn't make looking at that so bad not when I think of what the outcome could have been."

A fire ripped through the West Oklahoma Avenue home around 11 p.m. Monday.

At the time, the family of 14 was at home.  They'd just finished celebrating a birthday.

Tibbens says she was in the kitchen putting food away when the smoke detector went off.

"God bless smoke detectors.  They make a big difference in how people survive," she said.

Tibbens immediately went to a front bedroom where two of her grandchildren were asleep.  There were flames in their bedroom and they were spreading quickly.

Tibbens yelled for another family member to get out of the shower and grabbed the children.

There were eight children in the home at the time ranging from 18-months-old to 16-years-old.

Two grandchildren suffered first degree burns to their hands and face.  They were taken to an area hospital and released just hours later.

"By the grace of God we all walked away from this without a problem," Tibbens said.

There is a problem though.

The family has lost everything, including war plaques belonging to their recently deceased father.

They also are all now living separate houses.

"Right now, we are divided," she said.

The family lost two cats and a lizard in the fire.

Firefighters say a pinched wire sparked the fire.

"I am not burying anybody, I lost three pets and I am not trying to sound horrible that pets don't count but if I have to lose anything, I want to lose my four legged ones, not my two legged ones," she added.

The children are now back at school while family members salvage items. 

A relative has created a GoFundMe account to help them get back on their feet. 

Click here to donate.