News Florida Today

Smoke damage displaces family

Twins, 3, ignite mom's mattress with lighter

By Enrique Heredero

MELBOURNE -- The 3-year-old redhead walked into his mother's bedroom and picked up a melted Star Wars video and offered it to his mother.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart. It doesn't work," said 26-year-old Amanda Freida.

Freida then looked away, the damaged house smelling of smoke, and said, "They like 'Star Wars.' "

The family lost many of their belongings Thursday morning when Freida's mattress caught fire. The 3-year-old and his twin somehow got a hold of a lighter and tried to light their mom's candles on the bedpost.

"The boys kept me up last night, and I got up to fix them breakfast at around 8 a.m. We then went to the couch to watch cartoons. While I lay there, I fell asleep. At around 9 a.m, I awoke to the smell of smoke," she said.

Freida saw the glow of flames inside her bedroom and got a fire extinguisher from under the kitchen sink and was able to put out much of the fire.

Her boys and their four dogs, three Dalmatians and a puppy Chow Chow, were not hurt. A cat also was unharmed.

A wall in the living room was blackened from the smoke. Her husband, a former firefighter who was working at the time of the fire, has a fire truck collection in the living room that remained intact.

Though most of Freida's Betty Boop collection was intact, a large Betty Boop picture on her bedroom wall was destroyed.

Her bedroom was a wreck. Wet black ash was caked on the floor, a 32-inch television was melted and VCR was melted. A child's plastic fireman's hat was near the doorway to the bedroom. An assortment of children's videos were destroyed.

Precious photographs from her childhood were ruined in the blaze.

"That's my great-grandmother and me," Freida said, pointing to a blackened photograph.

Now, the family has to look for a new place to live. Freida and her children currently are staying at a hotel room provided by the Red Cross.

"We already spoke to a man we know that has a house for rent," she said. "It's going to be more expensive, so we're going to be tight on money. But we have to do what we have to do."