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Family with Special Needs Loses Everything in House Fire

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- An Independence family with three special-needs children is in need of just about everything this holiday season after a fire sparked by a laundry dryer destroyed their home and all of their possession.

All three of the the Johnson family children suffered smoke inhalation in the December 3rd blaze, but doctors say that 2-yer-old Logan, 3-year-old Savannah and 4-year-old Tommy Johnson's lungs are clearing up nicely.

Mom Christina Johnson says that she's glad that they're breathing at all.

"It was a matter of minutes and we could have been having funerals," Johnson says. She says that smoke alarms and some quick thinking saved her children's lives.

"I immediately grabbed Logan because he was in the room with me," she says, adding that Tommy was resisting leaving, fighting her as she got him out of the house. "I had to make him leave."

Johnson and two of her kids fled to a neighbor's house, leaving daughter Savannah still inside the burning house.

"I ran back and here was too much smoke to get back in," said Johnson. So she had to wait five excrutiating minutes for firefighters to rescue her only daughter.

"She came out crying and was awake," said Johnson.

Doctors say that all of the kids suffered smoke inhalation - and that they aren't entirely out of the woods.

"It's hard to predict how each kid's individual health needs affect their recovery," said Dr. Kirsten Weltmer of Children's Mercy Hospital. That is especially true considering the children's special needs - Logan has had two open heart surgeries, including one at just nine days old. Savannah suffers from precocious puberty - meaning that she started puberty as a toddler, and Tommy has autism.

But doctor's say the kids are gettin stronger after the fire, which is a relief to dad Aaron Johnson, who says that it's been tough since the fire.

"Some nights, especially lately, it's been very hard, they all wake up with nightmares," he says, adding that he knows it could have been much worse. "The firefighter flat told me, the one that brought her out, flat told me this is a once in a lifetime occurance, once in a career occurance. He said these kind of fires, nobody makes it out."

The River Church in Raytown is helping to collect donations for the Johnson family. For more information, call 816-356-7400.

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