CANTON, Ohio — With her two young children sleeping, Alicia Bursac was watching TV and relaxing in her home on Lawrence Road NE in Canton when "blinking lights" outside of a window caught her attention around 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 14.
In actuality, those lights were flames shooting from a vacant house and coming towards the rental property that Bursac's family had lived in for about a year.
"I looked outside and the house next door was on fire," Bursac said.
The 32-year-old mother knew she had to act quickly to save her sons, so she raced upstairs and woke up 4-year-old Teagan and 6-year-old Tristan.
"I had to wake them up out of a sleep and I grabbed them both and ran downstairs. The side door is next to the house [where the fire started], so we couldn't go out that door," she said.
Instead, Bursac dropped the boys out of the dining room window before she crawled out. By that time, her home was on fire too.
"My kids are my life and they could have just been taken like that. It would have been terrible."
Both houses burned to the ground and the family lost all of their belongings, including clothing, furniture and sentimental items like jewelry from Bursac's grandmother.
Compounding the tragedy, Bursac suspects someone set the vacant house on fire before the flames spread and destroyed her home.
Canton firefighters said the cause of the fire hasn't been determined, but a team of investigators is looking the possibility of arson.
Two other fires that happened in the same section of town this week could also be suspicious and remain under investigation.
On the afternoon of Dec. 14, a huge fire was knocked down at a vacant building that once housed a dental business on 13th Street NE.
On Dec. 16, a fire destroyed another vacant house on Rex Avenue NE.
Bursac said she'll be infuriated if an arsonist is responsible for causing her family's tragedy.
"It's disgusting. For what? What if we wouldn't have gotten out? That would have been me and my kids," she said.
Bursac is now staying at a hotel with assistance from the American Red Cross.
In addition, Canton area residents, organizations and church groups are helping the family with clothing and food donations.
Bursac's sister, Jennifer Bender, set up a GoFundMe Page hoping to raise money that will eventually help pay for another place to live for Bursac and her kids.
"Until you've lost something that is so close to you and you stare death in the face, I don't think you realize how little everything else means," Bender said.
Bursac is extremely grateful for the community's support, but she's also overwhelmed as the family looks to start over just one week before Christmas.
"It has been terrible," she said. "I worked really hard to get what I had and then it's just gone."