Mollie Hernandez didn't anticipate her family spending the holiday season hopping from hotel to hotel.

But a fire just days before Christmas forced the family of seven to flee their Akron house, leaving them homeless.

On Friday, she calmly discussed the family's predicament as she watched four of her five children — Wyatt Hernandez, 4, Bryn Bell, 7, and Brock Bell and Naomi Bell, who are both 13 but not twins — play foosball on a portable set at a Montrose hotel in Copley.

Her third son, Mario Bell, 11, was staying with a relative in Uhrichsville.

While this may not be how she imagined her days after the holidays, she is grateful that her kids are well.

"I'm just thankful that they're alive," said Hernandez who was home with the kids when the fire occurred. Her husband, John Hernandez, was at work.

The Hernandez family had lived at the home at 119 S. Maple St. since March 2017.

On Dec. 17, Mollie wrapped presents and cleaned while Naomi and Bryn played a game on the computer. 

Unknown to her, two of her three sons were in an upstairs bedroom playing with a green lighter. They lit a piece of paper inside a box and on the bed. Before the boys went downstairs, one of them tried to extinguish the fire by urinating on it. The boys thought the fire was out.

About two to three hours later, the smoke detector started chirping. The kids and Mollie, all of whom were downstairs, safely left the burning house. No one was injured.

The Akron Fire Department arrived at 8:53 p.m. and had the fire out by 11:20 p.m.

A firefighter tried to retrieve the family's gifts from the home, but they were destroyed.

Mollie and John have experienced a roller coaster of emotions since that day. While both of them are grateful that no one was hurt, John said he is worried and angry with the boys.

The two fire starters have to participate in a juvenile fire-stoppers program starting Jan. 3.

The American Red Cross was called in by the Akron Fire Department to help the family.

The family received a $1,300 debit card for clothes and hotel bills. However, when they tried to pay for their hotel room, the card was frozen and couldn't be used, so the family had to use their own funds. The issue was resolved Friday.

The family has shopped at Walmart for food to cook and the Salvation Army for clothes to save money.

Since the fire, they have stayed at several hotels, but Mollie has reached out unsuccessfully to several churches and shelters in search of places to stay.

Despite the situation, Mollie has tried to put on a brave face for her kids.

"I didn't want them to worry," she said.

It's been a week and a half since the fire and the plan to move forward is still unclear.

Mollie and John hope to find a house to rent and settle in. Mollie wants to continue home-schooling the children.

Despite all that the family has been through, Mollie continues to say how grateful she is.

"You don't see many stories these days about house fires and people making it out safely," she said. "I'm just very grateful that we were lucky and we're all still together."

Brandon Bounds can be reached at 330-996-3762 or bbounds@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow Bounds on Twitter at brandonbounds_.