“Don’t play with fire:” Thankful to be alive, woman recounts escape from burning home

MILWAUKEE -- Trapped in a burning home, a Milwaukee woman made the tough decision to jump out of a window to save her own life. It happened Sunday, January 1st near 10th and Hadley. On Tuesday, she spoke exclusively with FOX6 News.

With nowhere to turn, jumping out of a window was Mala Tolefree's only way to safety just after midnight on New Year's Day, when she awoke to her home engulfed in flames. She was badly hurt -- but said she's thankful to be alive.

Mala Tolefree

Mala Tolefree

"I'm just glad I'm still here and I'm still with my baby," said Tolefree.

In tears, Tolefree said it's been an emotional and painful few days.

"My arm is broke in three different places. I got 12 screws and two plates in my right arm," said Tolefree.

With gashes in her legs, she remained strong and positive despite a harrowing incident Sunday morning.

Mala Tolefree

Mala Tolefree

Mala Tolefree

Mala Tolefree

"I got woken up out of sleep by my boyfriend and he said 'the house is on fire,'" said Tolefree.

Fire officials say the home went up in flames after a child accidentally set the Christmas tree on fire.

"This is something people can learn from. Don't play with fire," said Tolefree.

Fire at 10th and Hadley

Fire at 10th and Hadley

Fire at 10th and Hadley

Fire at 10th and Hadley

Fire at 10th and Hadley

Fire at 10th and Hadley

Seven children, along with Tolefree and her boyfriend, were in the home when the blaze raged and had to rush out.

"The kids got out safely because they were on the first floor," said Tolefree.

Tolefree, her boyfriend and their baby were on the second floor.

"The smoke was coming toward us. It was so dark and thick. It felt like a burning feeling when you are inhaling -- like you can't breathe," said Tolefree.

Her boyfriend took the baby outside but when he came back for Tolefree...

"It was too late. The stairs started collapsing. I had to run through the living room upstairs and the floor started collapsing in the kitchen," said Tolefree.

Mala Tolefree

Mala Tolefree

Left with no other option, she jumped from the second story.

"I bust the window with my hand. I smacked the concrete face first. My arm was dangling and it was broke," said Tolefree.

Still, she managed to make it to a neighbor's house to call for help and see another day with her loved ones.

Mala Tolefree

Mala Tolefree

"God knows I've been praying and I'm happy I survived," said Mala.

Tolefree's boyfriend did suffer some burns and her 10-month-old was treated for smoke inhalation. They will recover -- but this family is devastated by the loss. The fire took everything they owned.

If you would like to help them get re-established, a GoFundMe page has been set up where donations can be made.

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