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Olathe dad accused of starting house fire that mom and two kids had to escape in December

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OLATHE, Kan. – It’s been eight months since an Olathe mom and her two kids escaped a fire that destroyed their home. Prosecutors say the woman’s husband, the kids’ father, started the blaze.

Nicholas McLaren, 35, was booked into jail Monday night.

McLaren is facing three counts of aggravated arson with risk of bodily harm and one felony count of obstructing legal process, for “willfully falsely report[ing] to a law enforcement officer.”

Elizabeth McLaren and her two kids, Maddie and Jack, made it out of the fire. They moved in with Liz’s parents after the December fire. Her father Earl explains while things are better, it has been a long eight months.

Joan Giannola was sitting at her kitchen table right around dinnertime last December when she noticed the house behind hers was in flames.

“I told my husband, I said, ‘Call 911, the house is on fire.’ It just kept burning. Then the firemen came and basically all night long, they were here,” she recalled.

Nicholas McLaren lived there with his wife Elizabeth and their two young kids. The husband and father is now charged with setting that fire. Liz and the little ones escaped.

Liz and her kids moved in with her parents after the fire. Her father Earl Watkins said he wouldn’t trade having them home.

“It’s been eight months since the house fire. That’s what families are there for, is in the good times and the difficult times… having them under your roof, having them at every meal table and bath time and TV time,” he said.

Watkins said there has certainly been hurt.

“Someone you think you know that behaves completely contrary to that picture that you have of someone close to you in your life,” he said.

But he said, there has also been healing.

“She understands what she needs to do and how she needs to be strong going forward as a single mother raising two small children,” Watkins said.

While Liz and her kids are safe with family, reminders of their December nightmare still hang in the open air. Christmas stockings still blow in the breeze on the backside of the burned home.

“We can’t do anything about it. It’s just a wreck,” Giannola said.

Neighbors are reminded daily of the fire and the mom and kids who got out just in time.

“Everything was just like they just left it. Christmas was there, and they just left it,” said Giannola.

Watkins said the city told him it will start tearing that home down next week. McLaren’s bond is $50,000.