BLACKSBURG (WSLS 10) - Two children lost in a house fire leave their friends trying to understand.
"It's just a living nightmare. I don't know. I don't know how our friends will get through it, but I know they will," said Lauren Colliver who is friends with the McKinnons and Montoyas. Those two families were sleeping when a fire started overnight in March, killing Patrick and Logan McKinnon.
"They are so strong, but it's just a nightmare. I don't know how you pick up and move forward from that place when you lose everything and your children. I try not to go there personally because I don't know how I could possibly do that," said Colliver, a mother of four who is trying to now make sure her kids know what to do in case of a fire. "This is just so important. When a tragedy happens you just want to do something and this feels like something I can do with my family to prepare."
10-year-old Gideon Colliver hopes to never hear a fire alarm in the middle of the night, but if it does and he can't get out their bedroom door, they are practicing climbing out of windows.
"Yes it may scare them to go through this, but I want them to know what to do if and when. It's just so critical," said Lauren Colliver.
Gideon said he feels safer than he would then if he was unprepared. The Colliver family and their kids, ages four to 13, just started practicing.
"Try to make sure we practice enough that it doesn't get as scary as it is for us right now," said Gideon.
Gideon opens the window, tossing out an aluminum ladder and coaching his younger brother to go down first.
"Sometimes he gets scared and I have to reassure him," said Gideon. "I tell him it will be fine as long as you get to the ground."
Blacksburg Fire Code Official Wayne Garst watches.
"Kids are like magnets. They absorb and they want to learn," said Garst. "They're very brave boys. They weren't afraid to climb over the ledge. If he was a little bit afraid the brother talked to him and told him what to do and he climbed right on over. They did great."
Garst said 99 percent of the time you can go out through a door, but Colliver said she wants to be prepared for everything.
"We put on our seat belt every time we get in the car. We put on helmets when we ride our bikes and we practice fire drills. It just has to be as routine as putting on your seat belt because while it is rare ,it can happen, it has happened," said Colliver. "It's a hard process because I want to tell them this is rare and this doesn't happen, but it did and it happened to people we know and love."
Garst said newer research shows when children go to bed they are so tired it's hard to wake up to a fire alarm, but they wake up better to a parent's voice. There's newer technology where you can record an emergency message with your kids names and instructions that the Collivers plan to install. They also are looking into alarms that can be wired together so when one goes off, they all go off.
Garst said while older children may feel comfortable climbing out of windows, if younger children do not, you should not force them. He suggests designating a parent to be in charge of getting them out safely.
If you want to go over fire safety with your kids, Garst said www.sparky.org is a good, interactive resource. Many families remember the stickers you could put on children's windows. The child locator tags are no longer recommend by NFPA because decals might direct an intruding child abductor to a sleeping child and many times a child may no longer sleep in that room, but the sticker remains.
The McKinnons and Montoyas still have a long recovery ahead. More than 20 percent of Christy Montoya's body was burned when she was trying to rescue Patrick and Logan.
There are several ways you can help both the Montoyas and the McKinnons.
Friends have set up verified accounts through YouCaring.com. You can help the Montoyas with Christy's medical expenses and other needs at this link. You can help the McKinnons, who lost their children and their entire house, by going to this link.
According to Zak Montoya, you can also go to any Wells Fargo and make a donation for the McKinnons through the "McKinnon Family Donation Fund."
For the Montoyas, you can go to any SunTrust and make a donation through the "Montoya Family Donation Fund."