89-year-old woman, family without a home after devastating fire

KOLD 10 p.m. - clipped version - clipped version

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -An 89-year-old woman and her family are without a home, right before Christmas.

This comes after a devastating fire on the south side of Tucson.

“It was so fast, it was too fast for anything,” said Mortiel Smith.

Smith is the kind of person who loves caring for others. So, Sunday morning, she decided to whip up a Thanksgiving meal for some of her church friends.

“When I cook greens, I always cook real broth -- some sort of pork meat -- in order to get the broth off it,” she said.

Smith says she left the kitchen momentarily to turn on the TV.

“My granddaughter said, ‘Is something burning in that kitchen?’” she said. “When I got down to the door, I said, ‘Oh, call the fire department because the house is on fire! The house is on fire!’”

Mere minutes is all it took for a grease fire to spark and engulf the entire kitchen.

Smoke was visible blocks away. Smith and her family fled from the flames.

“It was me, my daughter and my grandkids and my newborn grandbaby; 4-months-old,” said Smith’s daughter, Angela Sanders. “Yeah we had to get everybody out, it was really bad.”

However, Sanders still can’t believe the fire wasn’t worse.

“If it would have gotten to that hot water heater and that furnace heater in there, the whole house would have blown up,” she said.

Burnt beams; inches from the furnace, show just how close the fire got.

“I thank God. He was in that place. He saved us,” Smith said.

Grateful her family is alive and well, Smith is now salvaging what she can.

She bought the home off East 31st Street in the 70′s. The house holds countless memories of four generations.

“I love this house,” said Smith. “I don’t like to talk about it. When I start to talk about it, I can’t help but cry … because I love this place.”

The house is condemned, but Smith and Sanders have faith one day they’ll be home again.

“I learned a long time ago that God ain’t going to put too much on you that you can’t bear,” said Sanders. “That’s a real and true statement.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to get Smith back in her home. To help, click HERE.

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