02/10/2019 06:37 EST | Updated 02/10/2019 10:21 EST

Single Mom Of Five Dies Saving Her Kids From California House Fire

Kristina Stratton, 38, had been raising her children on her own since losing her husband to cancer four years ago.

A California widow and mother of five died last week after running into her burning house to rescue four of her children. The kids sustained minor to moderate injuries but survived the blaze.

Kristina Stratton, 38, had been outside her two-story home in Bakersfield with one of her daughters on Thursday when the building caught fire, CNN reported. The mom rushed into the house to rescue her four other children, ages 7 to 18, who were trapped upstairs.

The children managed to escape the blaze by breaking a window and jumping to safety, according to KFSN-TV. They suffered from smoke inhalation and some other minor injuries and were treated at a local hospital, the Kern County Fire Department said.

When firefighters arrived at the scene, they attempted to rescue Stratton from the fire but found her dead inside the home. The fire department said they were still investigating the cause of the blaze.

Stratton’s sister, Sarah Parks, characterized the late mom as a “hero.”

“My sister just did what any mom would do, protecting her children. She’s my hero. I hope I could be half the woman she is,” she told BakersfieldNow.com.

Parks said she and her husband intend on becoming the legal guardians of Stratton’s five children. Parks said her sister had been raising the kids on her own since Stratton’s husband — the father of three of her children — died of cancer four years ago. The father of Stratton’s two other children lives in a different state, Parks said.

Stratton’s death has been met with an outpouring of grief and empathy from strangers and neighbors alike. A GoFundMe campaign to help the family has already raised thousands of dollars and North Bakersfield Toyota announced it was hosting a donation drop-off. 

“She had a lot of people who loved her,” pastor Angelo Frazier, a family friend of Stratton’s, told CNN. “She loved her kids, her family, God. She loved life. She was just that kind of person.”

David Witt, the interim chief of the Kern County Fire Department, lamented Stratton’s death in a Friday statement and urged members of the public to have a fire escape plan for themselves and their family. 

“I never want to wake up in the middle of the night to hear about someone dying because of a fire,” Witt wrote.