After making an incredible recovery, one Washington mother got to have her happily ever after, after almost paying the ultimate price to save the lives of her children.
Angel Fiorini woke up in the middle of the night on October 28, 2016 struggling to breathe.
She climbed out of her bed, opened her bedroom door and was horrified at what she saw.
Her Washington home was engulfed in thick smoke, while her three children were asleep in their bedrooms.
“It was really hot already, even though it was on the opposite side of the house,” the 33-year-old mother said. “I just knew I had to get out.”
That's when the heroic mother leaped into action.
She hurried into the bedrooms of her youngest children, 4-year-old Vinnie and 2-year-old Rosalie, and scooped up one in each arm and rushed them safely outside.
Her eldest daughter, 8-year-old Ginanna, was still trapped in the burning family home.
“In that moment, the smoke being so thick and so black, and the fire moving as fast as it was, I had no idea how I would get back in there,” Angel said. “There was no way that I was going to stand outside my house watching it burn with her inside. There was nobody to call for help, and I knew that I was the only one who knew where she was in the house, and waiting wasn’t an option.”
"I saw myself standing outside doing nothing and questioning that for the rest of my life," she says. "I had this rush of maternal strength — I would walk through fire for my children."
Her living room was completely engulfed in flames, so the brave mother laid on her stomach to maneuver through the house.
“I couldn’t go in with eyes open between the heat and the smoke, so it was almost an army crawl across the ground,” she recalls. “I crawled towards the bedroom door and had to feel my way into her doorway.”
Angel was able to make it to her daughter's room, and dragged her to the front door while the flames torched her limbs.
"I whispered in her ear, 'You are God's gracious gift to Mommy.' I don't know if I said it to give her more courage or because I thought we weren't going to make it out alive."
Things got even more scary when she passed out, just feet from the front door.
By chance, volunteer firefighters were passing by and rushed in to save the mother of three.
Matt Burson just worked an extra shift and offered a ride home to a co-worker, he happened to be driving down Angel's street.
He saw the orange glow of the house and slammed on the breaks.
After seeing the two children outside, he knew he shouldn't go in the burning building on his own. With four children of his own, he noticed Vinnie had tried to crawl back inside the house.
"His feet were inside the door and his head out," Matt says. "All I could think was, Where is Mom?"
That's when he took a deep breath and on all fours crawled inside the home.
Eight feet into the burning building, he found Angel unconscious. Her skin was charred black, and she was barely breathing. He then dragged her outside to safety.
Back outside, Matt thought, Why was she in the house? "And I swear, right at that moment, Gianna let out a moan. It was like a sign from God." Wrapping his shirt over his head for protection, he went back inside the house. "I found Gianna three feet from where Angel had been," he said.
When Angel regained consciousness, she watched her home and everything turn to ash. Her then-boyfriend of 15 years, and father to her children, was out and didn't know what was happening at their home.
Angel and Gianna were admitted to the burns center at the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Harborview Medical Center for third degree burns on much of their bodies.
“Gianna and I had skin charred, melting, hanging off of our arms and our hands,” Angel remembers.
Thanks to Angel's bravery, Gianna escaped with fewer injuries than her mom who had burns on over half her body.
While in hospital, Angel contracted bacterial pneumonia and experienced a pulmonary embolism that almost killed her, but miraculously returned home five weeks after the fire that almost claimed her family's life.
While they were recovering, the community banded together and got the family a car, couch, and a mobile home to live in. Still, Angel has trouble accepting help.
“I think it’s a natural thing for a lot of people to have a hard time receiving things. Even though we lost everything, I just couldn’t really put together why so many people had come together and donated so much stuff,” she says. “People lose their house in fires pretty often, and it was hard for me to comprehend why we were being so blessed.”
Aaron took the lead to help Angel recover from the orrdeal, but took it one step further than anyone was expecting.
The couple had been together for the last 15 years and were happily unwed.
On January 20, three weeks after coming home, Aaron proposed to Angel. They married on July 28.
This helped them heal and move on from that tramatic day.
“We don’t really talk about it very much now, but Gianna did in the very beginning,” Angel says. “I think that might have been really healing for her, being able to be open in the first couple months about her feelings and what had happened, and her experiences.”
The cause of the fire is still unknown and Angel says she wasn't aware that the smoke detectors weren't working in their home. Now she is trying to raise awareness to prevent this from happening to other people.
“I have a really strong desire to make a difference from all of this. My life wasn’t just spared for no reason,” Angel says. “It’s something that gives me strength, knowing what I’ve overcome and what I’ve been able to fight through.”