REPUBLIC, Mo. -

It is meant to keep us warm on bitterly cold nights, but the comfort of a wood-burning fireplace quickly turned into a life-threatening situation for a family in Republic.

"The smoke woke us up, because I could smell it right away," said Rebecca Druba.  "We grabbed what we could and got out," she said.

Eric and Rebbeca Druba said the fire inside their wood-burning fireplace was out by ten o'clock Wednesday night.  When they woke up to the smell of smoke at 3:30 a.m. Thursday, they knew they had just minutes to get out.

"That your life could be going down into flames, and that really all you have is the clothes on your back and what you have on your feet," Druba said.

The Drubas have three children and one of the way.

"Ages nine, five, and six months, and then I'm two months pregnant," Druba said.

All the children are safe; that is one blessing.  Another is that a stone wall kept the fire somewhat contained.

"It's kind of like a shield, a fire stop, in a way, so it's burning outside the stone.  It certainly could've saved the home," said Vernon Smith, the owner of Smitty's Chimney Sweep and Stove in Springfield.

"January, February is most common time for flu fires," Smith said.

Smith said it is crucial that people get their chimneys cleaned and inspected annually.  He also recommends using seasoned wood.

"If you cut a tree down and cut it up and split it, it needs to season for a year.  You want to get moisture content down to 12 - 16 percent," Smith said.

The Drubas are disappointed a home inspection a few months ago did not catch the problem with their fireplace, but they are still counting their blessings.

"It could be a lot worse. We're alive.  We do have a standing house; it could be burned to the ground with nothing," Druba said.

The Drubas are safe and staying with relatives while their house is repaired.