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Kids help family escape damaging apartment fire

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Catherine Casto didn't know what was burning, but she knew something wasn't right.

"We were playing XBOX and next thing you know it was cloudy and smoky," she said, recalling a Saturday night with her younger sister. "I thought one of them were burning something in the kitchen and Cayla ran out and she was screaming. It smelled like wires, really bad. It just suffocated me is what it felt like."

The next thing her stepfather, Chad Gray, knew, the apartment was filled with smoke.

"Oh it was bad," he told NewsChannel 4 Sunday. "Like in a matter of probably two minutes the apartment was full. Like we had to get out. I couldn't breathe anymore, I had to get out. That was scary."

The family of four made a beeline outside, trying to get away from an apartment building that had caught fire.

Catherine, 14, wasn't wearing shoes, but said she ran over to a downstairs neighbor's door.

"There were younger kids downstairs with their mom and all of us got them out and we banged on their doors and I started screaming fire," she said.

Everybody made it out safely, though the fire displaced 14 people from the Springdale Village apartments. But Chad and Rhetta Gray quickly realized some of their most prized possessions were still inside. They went back to their smoky apartment.

"Probably four times, just trying to get our cats," Chad Gray said. "My cat I've had for four years. I've had him as a kitten. He's been homeless with me and all kinds of stuff and he won't leave me. I was trying so hard to get him."

The family couldn't find the cat, but firefighters did. They rescued four animals in all, returning them to their respective families.

The Grays lost furniture, medicine and a TV in the fire. But they're thankful for the firefighters, the Red Cross and their children who alerted them in the first place.

"I'm so proud of them," said Chad Gray. "It's so awesome. If it wouldn't have been for them, it would have been a lot worse."

The Red Cross helped put the displaced residents in hotel rooms. The Grays expect to move their things into a vacant apartment at the same complex Monday.