A California widow and mother of five died while trying to save her children and her pastor after a fire broke out inside of her house on Feb. 7, officials said.
The fire started just before midnight and quickly engulfed the two-story house in Bakersfield.
Kristina Stratton, 38, was outside the house but ran inside to try to save her children.
The four children in the house were able to escape by jumping from the second-story window, but Stratton perished inside. The children were injured but survived.
Pastor Angelo Frazier told ABC 23 that Stratton ran in to try to save her children but couldn’t get out.
According to a GoFundMe fundraiser started by a community member, Stratton was a widow who home-schooled three of her children, who are 8, 9, and 10 years old respectively.
Stratton’s sister, Sarah Parks, has been given legal guardianship of the children and the proceeds of the fundraiser will go to her.
“She said the money is going to cover the service/burial and to take care of the kids,” wrote Courtney McCorkle, the person who started the account. “They are planning on adding bedrooms to their house to make more rooms for the kids. She also talked about setting up savings accounts for the 5 children to start saving for college. She is overwhelmed and very grateful for all the support.”
Frazier told CNN that the father of the two oldest children is alive while the father of the other three children died of cancer four years ago.
“There are a lot of questions now that both mom and dad have passed and how that’s going to look in the next weeks and months and years,” Frazier said.
About Stratton, he said, “She had a lot of people who loved her. She loved her kids, her family, God. She loved life. She was just that kind of person.”
Parks told KBAK that she will be taking care of all five children. “I’m going to go and me and my husband are going to file to become their legal guardians and take over. And they’re going to live with us, all five of them, with our other children,” she said.
Keep this family in your prayers. A widow of five children died trying to save her children in a house fire. Stratton Family https://t.co/hRbvf2WiHI
— J (@famtreemom) February 11, 2019
Parks thanked people who have donated and reached out to help in other ways. “Thank you to everybody. My sister just did what any mom would do, protecting her children. She’s my hero. I hope I could be half the woman she is,” she said.
In the wake of the tragedy, Kern County Interim Fire Chief David Witt released a statement.
“I never want to wake up in the middle of the night to hear about someone dying because of a fire. The tragic events of last night make our community sit up and take notice,” he said. “House fires are somewhat common. We have to be vigilant, as families, to prepare and practice what needs to be done before, during, and even after a fire.”
During a fire, people can close a door to help slow the spread of heat, smoke, and fire, Witt said.
A message from Interim Fire Chief David Witt:
The chief said that families should have a fire escape plan including knowing all possible exits and escape routes. People should have two ways out of each room and choose a meeting place a safe distance away from the house where everyone can meet after they have escaped.
“Once you are out, stay out!” he said.
People should make sure to have working fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in their house, including smoke alarms in every room where someone sleeps and on every level in the house.