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Even at age 5, Atarah Dickinson saw herself as a role model for her younger brothers.

Today, she's fighting for herself after an early-morning fire Saturday left her with second- and third-degree burns over 95 percent of her body.

Atarah was airlifted Saturday morning from Children's Hospital to the Shrine Burn Hospital in Cincinnati.

"She's in grave condition," said Robin Nichols, her uncle and a Buffalo firefighter. "The prognosis is not too promising. We need everyone's thoughts and prayers right now."

The fire in her home at 193 Wakefield Ave. started shortly before 2 a.m. and left both her and her mother, Teresa, with serious burns.

Teresa Dickinson was injured when she mistakenly thought her 4-year-old son, Jamal, was still upstairs in the fire and she ran to get him. Jamal was safely downstairs at the time.

His mother was taken to Erie County Medical Center with second- and third-degree burns on her head, hands and feet. She was listed in serious condition.

Three other children and their grandparents, Ethel and Grady Malone, were in the house but escaped with minor injuries.

Nichols said Ethel Malone was downstairs when she heard Atarah's 10-year-old sister Sheresa scream, "Fire, fire," followed shortly by Atarah running down the stairs engulfed in flames.

Her grandmother smothered the flames and helped Atarah and the other children outside the house to safety.

Nichols said his brother, Jamal Dickinson, traveled with his daughter to Cincinnati and was told by her doctors that her condition was critical.

"It's very, very hard," Nichols said. "But we all have belief in the Lord, and the Lord does do miracles."

The family is planning to establish a trust fund at M&T Bank to help cover the family's medical expenses.

In addition, damage to the house, which was uninsured, was estimated by fire officials at about $45,000.

The cause is still being investigated, although Nichols said he was told by investigators that it was probably one of the children playing with a candle.

For now, the attention is focused on Atarah, an active little girl who loved school, a girl who, even at her young age, sought to teach her younger brothers about the ways of life.

"She was always trying to lead by example, cleaning her room or changing the little one's diapers," Nichols said.

"We have all the hope in the world."

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