A family of five narrowly escaped injury on a chilly Christmas Eve when their garage caught fire and their house filled with smoke.
Quick-thinking parents hustled their three children away from the television and out of the two-story house at 1601 Wickersham Drive in south Arlington and called 911 just after 7 p.m. The blaze caused an estimated $50,000 to $60,000 damage to the house, officials said, and destroyed Christmas presents stored in the garage.
"I saw smoke. I don't know how the flames started in the garage, but smoke was covering the whole house right away," said Donnie McDaniel, who had just started a fire in the fireplace. "I just grabbed the kids and ran."
Claire McDaniel was in the kitchen making gumbo.
"The next thing I knew I was calling 911, but I could barely breathe," she said. "Thank God everyone is all right. That is a blessing."
The family has lived in the house for 14 years, said Donnie McDaniel, the owner of a small building-supply business in Arlington. Christmas gifts valued at about $2,000 were destroyed in the fire, he said.
"All of my children were born in that house. I feel like crying," he said, as he and his wife stared across the street at more than a dozen firefighters packing up their equipment to leave.
The three children -- Thania, 7; Cameron, 10; and Loren, 12 -- were safe and warm at a neighbor's house as firefighters mopped up. Donnie McDaniel said the family would spend the night at his sister-in-law's home.
The fire originated in the garage, said Arlington Deputy Fire Marshal Stuart Brozgold.
Arlington Assistant Fire Chief Brian Riley said the smoke alarm in the house was working.