KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The area a family once called home is now littered with charred wood, debris, and broken glass. But the loss of the home pales in comparison to the loss of the family patriarch.
For more than four decades, Rickey Mills and his wife, Candy, built their lives around this small, blue house at 51st Street and Argentine Boulevard in Kansas City, Kan. Relatives of Rickey affectionately called him "Mr. Ho-Ho" because of his resemblance to Santa.
"We've been married 46 years, and we've lived her probably 43 years and raised our two kids," Candy recalled.
But all of those wonderful times the couple shared are now just memories.
"I feel like I'm numb. That's all I can tell you," Candy explained.
Around 8 a.m. Tuesday Candy said her worst nightmare became all too real; her house on fire.
"I heard the smoke alarm. I think that's the only thing that saved my life," Candy said.
Fast-moving flames and smoke quickly filled the house. Candy said the fire started in the rear bedroom.
"I jumped up and opened his bedroom door and it was in flames," Candy said. "I couldn't find him, and then I saw him in the bathroom and I said 'we got to get out.' It was extremely frightening."
Candy ran next door and screamed to a neighbor to call 911.
"And I got to get back over there to get him back out and by that time I couldn't see my hand in front of my face," she said.
Sadly, her husband, a diabetic who battled emphysema, congestive heart failure, and used an oxygen tank to help him breathe, got trapped in the fire.
Firefighters pulled Rickey out, but he later died at the hospital. The couple's 1-year-old dog also died in the fire.
"I just got some burns on my face and my ears, and singed my hair," Candy said. "You don't expect to wake up and your whole life's gone."
Rickey would've celebrated his 66th birthday in just two weeks. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.