Poor Peoples Economic
Human Rights Campaign


Thursday, March 4, 2010

MWRO: DTE – Illegal power hookup resumed hours before fatal fire

Detroit Free Press
March 4, 2010
By Amber Hunt

Original Article: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100303/NEWS01/100303011/1318/DTE-Illegal-power-hookup-resumed-hours-before-fatal-fire&template=fullarticle
Someone inside the now-charred home on Detroit’s Bangor Street was determined to keep the electricity flowing.

Within hours of DTE Energy cutting off service to the home because it had been hooked up illegally for months, two locks that had been placed by the utility on the electric meter box had been cut off — and power was restored.

The Detroit Fire Department is investigating whether that second illegal hookup led to the Tuesday deaths of three children – Travion Young, 5, Salena, 3, and Fantasia, 4 – after a blaze tore through the two-story home.

Four children survived the blaze by jumping from a second-story window, witnesses said. At least one – Jalen Young – was still being treated at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit this evening. A spokeswoman there said the boy was in good condition.Sylvia Young, the youngsters’ mother, was not home when the fire started, officials said.

Shomika Young, the children’s aunt, said the three who died were the closest of all the children.

“They were great kids, all of them,” she said. “Travion, the 5-year-old, he was short. We called him ‘Mighty Midget.’”

An electric space heater was visible through the front window of the home, and neighbors said they believe the family was using the device to keep warm because DTE had disconnected the gas, which is harder to reconnect than electricity.

“We can’t encourage customers enough to contact us if they’re having problems paying their utility bills,” said Scott Simons, a DTE spokesman, “but if we don’t know about them, it’s very tough.”
Original Article:

Fire officials said the investigation is ongoing. Sylvia Young told WDIV-TV (Channel 4) that her landlord had supplied her with the space heater.

DTE had disconnected gas and electricity to the home at 3 p.m. Members of the utility’s theft-investigation team removed the gas meter and double-locked the electricity meter, Simons said.

Less than four hours later, the home was engulfed in flames.

Seven children were home alone when the fire broke out, said Jarmar Taylor, 18, who lives nearby and said he rushed to the home when he saw flames bust through a front bay window.

“They threw the infant down to my mom,” Taylor said. “There was no way out.”

Neighbors said they tried in vain to break down the front door. They rushed behind the house and kicked in a back door, but the smoke was too thick to enter, said Diante Wilson, 27.

Anton Mills, 20, said he lived in the house until December, after which the new family moved in. The property is a rental home that, as of March 1, was $637 delinquent in property taxes, according to City of Detroit records.

Keith Owens, Wayne County director of communications, said the listed owner is Darnell Jackson of Detroit. A woman answering the phone at Jackson’s residence said he wasn’t available for comment.

Today, the front porch of the home had turned into a makeshift shrine as people dropped off stuffed animals, balloons and candles.

LaTonya Jackson, 42, approached the home and blessed it, then bellowed scripture.

“DTE has got blood on their hands,” she yelled. “DTE!”

Simons said a previous resident had DTE cut off services to the home Dec. 11. No one had asked for it to be restored since then, he said.

Fifth Battalion Fire Chief Gary Lauer said that firefighters arriving at the scene about 6:30 p.m. thought the home was vacant until someone finally told them that three children were trapped upstairs.

They found the children pretty quickly, Lauer said. “But the smoke and the heat and the fire was so intense, they were in pretty bad shape when we found them.”

The mother arrived at the home shortly after the fire broke out, hysterical about the tragedy, Lauer said.

Contact AMBER HUNT: 313-223-4526 or alhunt@freepress.com. Labels: posted by Arun

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