A blonde-headed boy wrapped in a white blanket, her youngest, clung to Stacie Dailey, refusing everyone but his mother.
Dailey stood on Boeing Avenue, her gaze planted on the firefighters sifting for hot spots in the charred shell of what had been her home the past two years. All their possessions succumbed to the flames. The house was a total loss, Bismarck Fire Marshal Owen Fitzsimmons said.
“But you guys are safe,” her sister, Heidi Wiard, said, as Dailey and her three sons had fled their south Bismarck home unharmed.
Dailey wore no shoes. There had been no time.
“It went so fast — before I could even get down the hall,” said Dailey, who had smelled the smoke before she saw flames.
Had it been the mattress on fire or the floor? She couldn’t tell.
“They think it was electrical,” Wiard said after she'd heard from one of the firefighters, though Fitzsimmons officially classified the cause as undetermined.
The fire started in the bedroom.
Cindy Dutke had been sitting at home next door with her dog, Bear, when she smelled smoke from the blaze. Her mind zipped to her childhood when a barn on the family farm burned.
Dailey’s screams, “Get Cindy, get Cindy,” pulled her from her memories and launched her into action.
“I knew something was wrong right away,” Dutke said, and she was already dialing 911 as she ran out the door.
It was a little after 11 a.m.
Coal-black smoke was billowing through the roof as Dutke got outside. Window panes shattered from the heat.
“I couldn’t even breathe,” said Dutke, who has respiratory problems. “It was bad.”
She was just glad to see the kids were safe. She’d grown close to the boys over the years. They would come over to play with Bear. She was teaching them to color, giving them treats and Kool-Aid and stickers for when they were good boys.
“I can’t even imagine,” said Dutke. “She couldn’t grab anything but the kids.”
Dailey, her three sons and her husband plan to stay with family in Bismarck, she said. Fitzsimmons said the American Red Cross was contacted to provide aid. The sisters created a GoFundMe webpage, https://www.gofundme.com/DaileyFamilyFire, for anyone who wishes to donate and will open a donation account at Capital Credit Union. Refuge Church Pastor Corey Fifer and his wife Rachael are also helping collect items at the church to be donated.