The ceiling in Jenny Fowler's sons' bedroom is collapsing.
In an adjoining room, which she and her family used mostly for storing clothing, a large portion of the ceiling has fallen, ruining much of what they own.
"I keep telling her, ‘You can't live in this house. It's not safe,'?" said Erica Hehl, 25, Ms. Fowler's best friend.
For the past 12 days, ever since the vacant house next to the one she rents burned, the mother of four and her fiance have bounced among hotels and spent most of their savings. Now all Ms. Fowler, 28, wants is a place to take her children and to begin rebuilding what they lost.
For years, 2107 Hawthorne St. sat vacant and, according to neighbors, caught fire at least twice before.
At 1:41 a.m. June 29, the house caught fire again. As firefighters battled the flames, Ms. Fowler's neighboring home was damaged, mostly from water, making the upstairs uninhabitable.
"I'd just like to get out of this house and get back to normal," Ms. Fowler said.
She and her family have to make trips elsewhere to bathe, and they're afraid to plug in electronics, not knowing if water damage compromised the house's wiring.
Three of Ms. Fowler's children, Brooke Reed, 9, Garon Reed, 7, and Jaylah Runion, 6, have been staying with their grandparents an hour away until Ms. Fowler can find a place for the family to live.
Her children keep calling, crying, wanting to know when they can come home. "I don't want them here, because I'm scared there's black mold," Ms. Fowler said, looking into her sons' bedroom.
The entire upstairs reeks of mildew; curls of paint litter the floors.
Monday night, the family stayed inside the Hawthorne Street home, in the central city near Ottawa Park, but hoped to find different accommodations. After the fire, the Red Cross provided three days at a local hotel. The family then paid about $200 out of pocket for two more nights at an East Toledo hotel.
Ms. Fowler said she's called and sent emails to more than a dozen landlords hoping to find someplace that will be flexible about a deposit and first month's rent. But she said she's heard back from only one person — and that house near Toledo Hospital, which otherwise would have been a dream location for her, proved to be too small for her family's needs.
She said she started working at On The Go, a food delivery company, about a month ago, making $5 plus tips for each delivery, but has had to take some days off work because of the fire.
Because she's had to pay cash for hotel rooms, she said she's not able to afford gas for her car to make the deliveries.
And as bad as things are — being separated from her children, losing the kids' toys and clothing and furniture — it could be worse, she said.
Ms. Fowler said there are no smoke detectors in the house and her family had no idea that the house next door was burning until a neighborhood man, Richard Meeker, 21, woke the sleeping family by pounding on their front door.
"I was just glad I was awake and happened to be outside," said Mr. Meeker, who was hanging out at a friend's house down the street. "I could have been inside. It must have been by the grace of God. I'm just glad I could save them from something worse."
Toledo fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld said the fire's cause remained under investigation Tuesday, but pointed out that it is a vacant property.
Reese Hicks, who owns the property under a company name, Hicks Demolition Inc., said he hasn't been to the house for which Ms. Fowler pays $450 a month to rent, because he is working out of town. He added that an insurance adjuster has been to the house and estimated damage at $9,000. Repairs to the property, he said, are supposed to begin today.
Ms. Fowler said she doesn't intend to stay and pay rent in a place where she and her family don't feel safe while repairs are being made.
"Right now, if it looks good and isn't totally in the ghetto, it's good for now," she said.
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: email@example.com, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @tdungjen_Blade.