SPRING HILL — The two mothers and their seven kids were all sleeping when the fire broke out Tuesday morning in an empty room.
Awakened by smoke, Tasha Williams, 32, and her friend Crystal Murray, 24, sprang to life to wake up their children and usher them out of the house.
"That was our first instinct — get the kids out," Murray said.
Williams said she was so thankful.
"They're my life," she said.
The quick actions saved all the people inside the home at 572 Swallow Lane, but it wasn't enough to spare the lives of Williams' two chihuahuas and African grey parrot.
Williams said she tried to go back in after the dogs, but thick black smoke had filled the home from ceiling to floor.
"I just couldn't breathe in there," she said.
Hernando County Fire Rescue firefighters were called to the two-bedroom home about 7:11 a.m. and had the blaze knocked down by 7:25 a.m. Although the fire damage was limited, the house had extensive smoke damage, according to Hernando County Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Kevin Carroll.
Late Tuesday morning, an acrid smell filled the home, and a thin layer of water coated parts of the floor. Some of the walls were blackened from fire and smoke. In one of the bedrooms, the roof was exposed, the walls scorched and the floor littered with debris.
Carroll said the fire was caused by an electrical wiring malfunction at an outlet where a window air conditioner was plugged in. It spread and lit some nearby bedding.
Williams, who has rented the home since November, said she lost most of her possessions in the fire. She didn't have renter's insurance. The same goes for Murray, who has been in the home for about two months.
"I don't have no money saved, no nothing," Williams said as she stood outside the home, holding one of her kids, who range in age from 2 to 15. "If it wasn't for Red Cross right now putting me in a hotel for three days, I wouldn't even have that."
She said she is on medical leave from work.
"I got no place to go," she said. "I don't have nothing now."
She also was upset about the loss of her two 10-year-old chihuahuas, Miss Banga Boo and Sir Tiki Hut, and her parrot, Pepsi, which she had had since the fourth grade.
"I'm wondering, why me?" she said.
Murray said she hadn't figured out what her next step would be.
"We have to start from the bottom up," she said.
Danny Valentine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. Follow on Twitter @HernandoTimes.