PETERSBURG, Va. -- A fire ripped through a duplex in Petersburg on Thursday evening, destroying one side and leaving two families without homes.
Just before 7 p.m. on Thursday, firefighters arrived at North Valor Drive to find flames shooting out of the windows of the building.
At that moment, everyone had safely exited the home.
"Lives were saved and not taken," Erica Riddick, who watched as her home burned, said.
When firefighters arrived at the duplex, Petersburg Fire Chief Tina Watkins said they were met with flames everywhere.
Firefighters would soon learn why.
"We found out that they had left some windows open, some doors, so that accelerated the fire here," Watkins said.
"All I see is just my house in flames," Riddick said.
Despite the tragic material losses, the 37-year-old and mother of two children is able to see a silver lining.
"All I see is my kid is safe, I'm safe. My family is safe and that was all that matters to me," Riddick said.
Erica is able to vividly recall the moments before the fire engulfed the building.
She said her four-year-old walked up to her and soon, Erica would realize something was wrong.
"We decided to get up and said show me and when we said show me, we see smoke coming from out the hallway," Riddick said.
Erica said it was then that her instincts kicked in.
"First thing I do is just yell fire, everybody get out," Riddick said.
Less than five minutes passed between the 911 call and when firefighters arrived at the scene.
"They did what they were supposed to do and they got out of it alive. Everything else can be replaced. But your life cannot be replaced and that's what people need to understand," Watkins said.
After the fire was brought under control and the burnt contents were removed, the fire investigation revealed the cause of the blaze.
"An accidental fire caused by unattended smoking materials in a child's hand," Watkins said.
Watkins noted that everyone needs to make sure they have a working smoke detector in their home. If you rent, renter's insurance is an inexpensive way to help protect your property. You should also never go back inside a burning building once you have made it out safely.
Anyone interested in helping the family can do so this weekend. Friends are setting up tables in front of the house on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. for any donations people would like to give.
The house is located at 1611 N. Valor Drive in Petersburg.