KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Two children were found dead following a fire that destroyed a house in Kalamazoo’s Edison neighborhood early Monday morning.
They were identified as Evelyn and Elliot Blackport, ages 4 and 7.
The fire happened around 2 a.m. at a house on E. Stockbridge Avenue near the intersection of Division Street. The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said that when firefighters got on the scene, they found heavy fire on the first floor, which quickly spread to the second floor.
The two children were unable to get out of the house and were pronounced dead.
An adult and another child were able to escape the fire.
Later Monday, Neighbor Crystal Baldwin placed a stuffed animal in front of the home to memorialize the children.
“I only can imagine what the mom’s feeling right now,” Baldwin said. “I didn’t even want to go back to sleep last night. I wanted to make sure, you know, them babies were OK and waking up this morning, they’re not.”
Baldwin said she and others tried to help, but the fire spread too quickly.
“I came running over here after calling 911 and the guy (was) screaming, talking about his babies are still upstairs. And (he) went to go to try to run up the front porch. And I said, ‘No, you’ve got a baby in your hand.’ And I went to go grab a hold of him and as I went to go grab a hold of him, I could feel the heat from the porch and the front door came blasting open and fire and smoke came out and it knocked us out the front porch steps.”
Another neighbor, Kianna Abbott, hurried over with her fire extinguishers, but the flames were too big.
“There’s nothing that we could do as bystanders but to watch,” Abbott said. “It’s painful to have to even have to see or witness anything like that. I definitely shed plenty of tears because no one should have to go through that.”
Neighbor Antawn Perkins told News 8 he called 911 after hearing a commotion across the street.
“I heard screaming and stuff, saying, ‘My babies.’ A lot of screaming, like, ‘My babies in the house,'” Perkins said.
His son looked out the window and said there was a fire.
“I called the police,” Perkins said. “They came and their response time was excellent. They was here in under a minute.”
He said he first saw flames coming out of the front and side of the lower level. But in the short time it took police to arrive, the fire had spread to the upper floor.
“(The flames) just went from the lower level and just seemed to consume the upper level out of nowhere,” Perkins said, saying the fire was “totally out of control.”
He said three or four police cruisers were soon on scene and the officers tried to get inside.
“The officers was trying to get in the house, but they just couldn’t. The flames was too much for them,” he said. “The fire department responded real quick, too, but again, the flames was too much.”
A father himself, Perkins said he was heartbroken for the children’s family.
“They tried, they wanted to run up in there with the flames. No man can contend with fire,” Perkins said. “It was just a tragic situation and may God be with them.”
Perkins said the family has lived in the neighborhood for only about a month.
KDPS said the cause of the fire is believed to have been accidental.
Fire Marshal Scott Brooks said there are many older buildings with several additions added to them, causing fires like this to break out and making it harder for firefighters to make sure that the fire is fully extinguished.
“We run into these kind of things of trapped fire and hidden spaces, renovations and those kinds of things, so it’s one of those things. We deal with it on a regular basis,” Brooks said.
Brooks adds that everyone should check their fire safety equipment, like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. The neighbor said that’s what the fire taught him.
“Keep fire extinguishers all around your house,” Perkins said. “Maybe if we have extinguishers readily available, it will help us to kind of contain the fire, if not put it out until the fire department or somebody comes.”
Brooks also reminded people to cook in a safe manner, as cooking is a common cause of fires.
—News 8’s Elena Cousino and Kyle Mitchell contributed to this report.