Mother, 3 daughters with special needs, struggle to adapt after losing home in fire

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BEAVER FALLS, Pa. —

A Beaver Falls woman's dogs may have started a fire at her home Saturday, but they’re also being credited for saving her life.

Investigators said the fire was reported at Kristyn Thomas’ home while she was napping.

“She laid down for a little bit, and I guess the dogs were frolicking in the house and knocked a candle over, and that is what pretty much started it," said neighbor Bev Ottabiani. 

The candle fell into a box of papers, filling the house with smoke. Authorities said the dogs barked and jumped around, eventually waking Thomas up.

“She got up to see what they were barking at.  She opened her bedroom door, and there was smoke everywhere,” said Ottabiani.

"I opened up my bedroom door and it looked like someone had painted a wall of black outside.  You couldn't see anything,” Thomas said.

Thomas has three young daughters who have special needs.  They were home at the time of the fire, but weren’t injured.

Thomas told Channel 11’s Vince Sims that she’s thankful for her and her daughter’s lives, but losing their home has been difficult.

“It’s like trying to take care of the three of them in a hotel room. They want to go home,” Thomas said.

Thomas and her children are staying at a local hotel with help from the American Red Cross.

“Children with special needs require routine and this has disrupted them so badly that they are having a hard time sleeping. Last night I couldn’t get them to sleep until 10 and then (they) had school today,” Thomas said.

The fire was contained to the dining room, but there was other significant damage to the house.

Officials said even with the Thomas’ insurance, they could be out of their home for up to six months.

“I don’t know how to tell them that they can’t go home or when they’ll put us in a more permanent place,” Thomas said. "And this situation, as difficult as it is, I know in the end God's plan will come out, and we will come out ahead. I know we will."