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Man, 5 stepchildren killed in Mich. house fire

Fire engulfed a two-story home in Saginaw, Mich., early Thursday, killing a man and his five stepchildren, authorities said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A kitchen fire engulfed a house early Thursday, killing five children and their stepfather, who ran back into the flames to try to save them, authorities said.

The children’s mother was rescued from the two-story home by sheriff’s deputies, police Sgt. Mark Lively said.

The early morning fire started in the kitchen, where the stepfather, 33-year-old Samuel Watkins, had been cooking, police Detective Jason Ball said.

Watkins ran out of the burning house and flagged down deputies, who were nearby on an unrelated matter, police said. Watkins then re-entered the home, running “back through a wall of flames and smoke to go upstairs” to save his wife and children, Ball said.

The body of Samuel Watkins was found with the five children. Tanesha Watkins fled to the basement, where deputies rescued her, and escaped serious injury.

Praise for stepfather
Ball said the man’s actions were heroic.

“Put yourself in that position — you would have done the same thing,” Ball said. “You’re going to try to defeat the odds and make an attempt.”

Watkins’ wife, 33-year-old Tanesha Watkins, was trapped by the flames and fled to the basement, where deputies pulled her to safety.

Along with Samuel Watkins, police identified the victims as Tanesha Watkins’ children: Adam Dupuis, 13; Majesty Price, 8; Destiny Price, 5; Essence Price, 3; and Chad Skinner, 1.

The century-old home, which sits along a busy thoroughfare about 80 miles north of Detroit, had no smoke detectors, Ball said.

Much of its tan-sided, green-trimmed exterior was charred, but a doll’s playhouse and a plastic gym sat undamaged on the large front porch.

Concert dedicated to victim
Adam was to sing Thursday in a concert that brought together students from six area schools. Rather than cancel the concert, students decided to dedicate it to the eighth-grader, said Michael Manley, a Saginaw schools spokesman.

“It is really tough for them to do, but they’re doing it,” Manley said. “It’s extremely emotional, but the kids were great.”

Kempton Elementary School Principal Janice Merriam said students spent the day celebrating the lives of Majesty and Destiny, writing notes and drawing pictures that will be given to the family.

The fire followed a Monday blaze that killed a 27-year-old pregnant woman and her three children at their Detroit home. Their father suffered burns over 80 percent of his body.

The home didn’t have any working smoke detectors. That fire was sparked by an unattended barbecue grill, Detroit fire officials said.