WARREN, Mich. (WXYZ) — Ladarrel Brown said something woke him up just after 4 a.m. Wednesday, and that's when he saw smoke was filling up the bedroom where he and his four children went to sleep with the door closed.
Their home at Warren Manor apartments in the city of Warren was on fire.
Brown knew he had to act fast because smoke was getting into his lungs. He woke up the children and jumped out of the first-floor window and began calling for the children to come to him.
"That's the scariest part," he said. "When you don't see your kids and they're not coming and all you can just do is yell and just hope they come and listen to your voice."
Thankfully Brown's children — ages 3, 4, 6, and 8 — were able to follow his words and he pulled. But his 8-year-old daughter Laurii'ell, who was sleeping on a top bunk, had been burned on one of her arms and her face had started to blister.
Laurii'ell was rushed to Children's Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, where her condition is described as stable.
Brown said he was told that sleeping with the bedroom door closed likely helped save him and the children.
A closed door becomes a barrier between you and any smoke, fire or toxic gases, according to the Fire Safety Research Institute for Underwriters Laboratories (UL). A closed door can hold back heat and cut off a fire's oxygen supply and slow the spread of the fire.
Brown said he always closes the door in case of an intruder and just to keep the children close and safe.
Fire officials said smoke detectors were sounding in the affected apartments that were occupied and that some unoccupied units that were being painted did not have working smoke detectors.
Warren Fire Commissioner Skip McAdams said investigators have been able to determine that the fire started in the Brown's living room, inside a wall. Investigators are trying to determine if an electrical problem at an outlet sparked the fire that left 16 units damaged or destroyed.
Brown said the television in the living room sometimes cuts off, and that the building still uses older screw-in fuses.
Public Service Director Gus Ghanam said those screw-in fuses are older but would only need to be upgraded if the electric work in the buildings is changed.
Ghanam said the apartments are inspected every two years and were last inspected in 2019. They are due to be inspected again this year after a one-year delay due to the pandemic.
The children's grandmother Ingrid Poole said she is just thankful to God that they all survived.
"I want people to know that I'm grateful because I know what God did. I know he spared them," she told 7 Action News. "Everything else? Forget it. We'll get it piece by piece, bit by bit, one table at a time."