Boy recalls fire that left 18 people homeless

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jul 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-25 19:09:13-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Eighteen people are now homeless due to a fire that destroyed an apartment building on Grand Rapids' northwest side, Thursday evening.

Isaiah Slawinski, 11, and his mom Tricia live 5 doors down from the building.

The destroyed building is on the corner of Fourth and Davis.

“I honestly didn’t do it, and I was scared to death yesterday," Isaiah said.

As firefighters continued to douse hotspots and assess the damage Friday, the mother and son said they returned to the scene for reasons beyond gawking.

“Just to clear [Isaiah's] name. My son’s name and us. My son was at home," Tricia Slawinski said.

Her neighbors said they saw a boy trying to put out a fire. Slawinksi said her son was implicated as being present.

However, the family said they smelled the smoke from home. That’s when Isaiah and two neighbor girls ran toward the burning building to check things out.

Isaiah said he was met by a little boy standing outside. (FOX 17 is choosing not to name the boy.)

“He’s 8, and he lives up in those apartments," Isaiah said.

Isaiah recalled his conversation with the boy.

"(The 8-year-old) said, ‘I started the fire,’ and I was like, 'Why?'"

"(The 8-year-old) said, ‘Help me put it out with rocks. I was like, 'No bro.'”

Per witness statements, the fire marshal said the department is investigating the possibility that a child set the fire.
Witnesses said the boy tried to put it out with rocks and leaves before it got out of control and destroyed the building.

Now investigators, including a Kent County arson dog, are combing the area for clues.

Tricia Slawinski said this isn’t the first time the 8-year-old has caused a scene.

“This is the little boy’s 3rd fire, I guess. The fire trucks and ambulance and cops have already been here about like, 3, 4 times this month. I guess the little boy had a machete recently. He, he needs help. He needs out of that situation," she said.

Isaiah said, “It’s just scary. After seeing that fire and it’s just so close to our house. It scared me a lot.”

The Grand Rapids Police Department said there's been 10 calls for service to that apartment building in 2014 (for various reasons.)

The Red Cross is assisting those who've been displaced.