Great-grandmother killed in house fire; 10 other people homeless

Posted at 7:48 PM, Jan 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-11 19:48:20-05

Muskegon, Mich. -- A house fire killed an elderly woman and left 10 family members homeless in Muskegon on Monday morning. Police said 77-year-old Barbara Branyan died from smoke inhalation. The fire happened on Fleming Street near Roberts on the city's east side.

Branyan's granddaughter, Paige Johnston said, "The whole house was gone in a matter of minutes."

Johnston said she and her husband were getting their kids ready for school when her sister started screaming 'fire'.

"It was so bad, and it went up so quickly," she recalled.

Their cries for help alerted neighbors. Marcus Jackson was at home across the street.

"I came to the window and looked out the window and seen the house was on fire. So I just threw my shoes on and ran up in there," Jackson said.

He and his friend Derricus Williams helped get people out.

"I went in there again and got his mother-in-law out. He was like 'my grandma's up top,' and then we got another girl out the front," Jackson recalled.

Williams said, "We heard banging at the top window. So we like, man we got to go to the back."

Muskegon police said 11 people lived there. Because of the men’s heroic efforts, all but one person was accounted for. The Johnstons' grandmother, Barbara Branyan, was still inside.

Jackson said, "He said she was in there. So we all tried. It was pretty much a neighbor effort. Ya know, everybody. I ain't gonna sit there and let nobody die like that."

But they said the smoke was too overwhelming.

Johnston said, "My grandma... she couldn't make it out."

Neighbor Oscar Hernandez helped in the rescue too and also took care of the family's pregnant dog.

He said, “The owner’s name is Ray. He’s really good people. Takes care of his family."

Now 8-year-old Carmen, 6-year-old Aiden and 5-year-old Conner, and their family of 10 are picking up the pieces. They're in dire need of help.

Johnston said, "We lost all of our clothes. We lost everything. I lost my cat."

"We lost our home. That was our home since I was born."

The ten survivors were taken to the hospital. Some of them returned to salvage what they could, and they said the Red Cross is helping them out. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Muskegon Red Cross contact: