SANGERVILLE (AP) – A Sangerville woman says she had two choices when a weekend fire raged outside her second-story bedroom door: die in the flames or jump to safety with her two young children.

Given the choice, Michelle Knowlton broke through two windows and a screen and dropped her 2- and 5-year-old sons 20 feet to the ground as flames threatened at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Knowlton, 30, then leaped to the ground, breaking her back and arm.

Speaking from her bed at Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft, Knowlton said she’s never been so scared as when she discovered the fire burning outside the bedroom door, leaving the window as the only exit.

After breaking through the windows, she grabbed her youngest son, Chayce, and dropped him to the ground. Next was Chancelor, whose nose was cut when he landed on his face.

“I didn’t want to drop my children, but I had to,” Knowlton told the Bangor Daily News. “I feel like it’s my fault because I should have wrapped (Chancelor) in a blanket. If I had not gotten them out, we would have died in the fire.”

Michelle and Roy Lord, friends who live across the street, ran over after seeing the fire’s glow and hearing the sound of breaking glass. They could hear Knowlton crying and calling for help, Michelle Lord said.

Then Knowlton jumped, and the Lords carried her and her boys back to their home.

“She is a hero. She saved her kids,” Michelle Lord said. “She could not have done anything any better.”

Chayce was mostly unhurt and Chancelor was released from the hospital Saturday after his nose was stitched up. He will require plastic surgery to further repair his nose, Knowlton said. Knowlton herself needed surgery to repair her fractured back and arm.

The house where the three lived was gutted.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and officials believe it started in the kitchen or dining room area, Sangerville Fire Chief Charles Beane said.

Knowlton thinks the fire might have started in the wood stove where she had tossed some dry paper and burned-out matches after trying to light candles, she said.

AP-ES-08-14-06 1021EDT

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