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Family and neighbors remember 2-year-old killed in Grand Rapids fire

Posted at 5:31 PM, May 04, 2018

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- Family and neighbors are trying to recover after the heartbreaking loss of a 2-year-old girl who died in a fire on the northeast side of Grand Rapids Thursday night.

The toddler has been identified as Jazelle Thomas-Whitfield. Her mother and four siblings were able to escape that fire.

The building where that fire took place was the residence of two families, one on each floor.  Both are now trying to get back on their feet after the tragedy.

Around 7:30 Thursday night, heavy flames poured out the rear of families' home.

"We're really lucky that we made it out cause it was intense, it was very close to us  any second longer and those steps would have been on fire and we wouldn't have made it," said Sadie Hollenbeck.

The Hollenbecks shared the building with another family who lost their two year old daughter in the fire.

"I rushed over to [the house] and all I seen was fire trucks, police cars, and initially when I got out of the car her boyfriend's sister she grabbed me, and I just broke down to my knees and just started crying and screaming," says Mirayon Hamilton, Jazelle's Cousin and Godmother.

Fire investigators believe it started toward the rear of the building, where Jazelle was later found.

"She was a miniature me, she was loved. That was my best friend, my baby, I loved her like she was my own daughter and it's just, it's hard," says Hamilton.

The neighboring family who says they barely got of the fire in time is still in shock to hear that the fire took their home and the toddler.

"I was devastated, I was in tears, I was crying, I was just hearing the pain that she was going through I couldn't imagine that as a mom. I don't know what I would do without my babies. I have a really heavy heart for her and the whole family," said Hollenbeck.

Jazelle is described as a sweet and loving toddler that her family says is gone too soon.

"It was an accident, it was nobody's fault and it was God's plan. It's hard to say, she was only two years old and God took her too soon but you can't change what God wants," says Hamilton.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Firefighters have said they don't suspect anything suspicious.

Both families impacted by the fire have Go Fund Me pages. You can click here and here to view them.