Strangers rescue toddler, mom from burning home but can’t reach grandma

A paramedic carries an injured toddler to an ambulance. All photos by Steve Neavling.
A paramedic carries an injured toddler to an ambulance. All photos by Steve Neavling.

Dante Brown was visiting a cousin on Detroit’s east side when he spotted smoke coming from a nearby house Friday afternoon.

The 42-year-old and his friend sprinted to the back of the home and pulled open the rear door at 5915 Marcus. The house was thick with smoke. Their eyes stung.

Dante Brown helped save the lives of a toddler and mother.
Dante Brown helped save the lives of a toddler and mother.

They crawled through the house until they saw a disoriented woman with a toddler in her extended hands.

“She held a baby up to me,” Brown said. “I grabbed the little girl, and the lady collapsed.”

Brown, the father of two young children, rushed the toddler outside and came back for the woman as the flames grew more intense.

“I dragged her out of the house,” Brown said about 30 minutes later, sitting in an SUV with tears in his eyes.

Although Brown and his friend saved two lives, they were devastated they couldn’t save the grandma.

5915 Marcus“She was upstairs,” Brown said, unable to hold back tears. “We tried. There was nothing we could do.”

Another boy had escaped the blaze. While paramedics tended to him and the toddler, the mother was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

The fire was first reported to 911 at 2:13 p.m. By the time the first firefighters arrived at 2:21 p.m., there was nothing they could do. The closest company, Engine 46, was in an accident on the way.

But before Mayor Dave Bing closed a quarter of the city’s fire stations in 2012, four companies would have been able to respond faster because they were closer than Engine 46.

This is part of our yearlong series about the beleaguered fire department. We are documenting every fire.

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The teenager on the right lost his grandma in the fire.

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Tim Burke

    Sorry you had to witness that Steve i witnessed two young girls pulled out of a house on Cadiuxe when i was 15 they were limp and seemed life less it made me think of my little sisters the image of those little girl haunts me to this day when i see news of fires. Fire Fighters should be at the top of the list for pensions and pay. and a shout out to the CItizens who helped rescue this Family.