Woman, 3 children die in Mich. house fire

Highland Park Fires
Highland Park firefighters hold up a sheet at one of five houses burned in a early blaze in Highland Park, Mich., on Wednesday. Four people from one of the houses are missing. Paul Sancya / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A house fire killed a woman and three children early Wednesday and heavily damaged four other homes, three of them vacant, fire and city officials said.

Space heaters may have caused the blaze, authorities said. The temperature at the time was in the 30s.

Family members identified the victims as Josephine Dale, 51, great-aunt of Orlando Glover, 10; Zeryha Dale, 8; and Melvin Turner, 5. They were among eight people living in the house.

Willie Dale, who said he was the adult victim's son, said he escaped from the house with his girlfriend, their 10-month-old daughter and the mother of the three children who died.

"I woke up to my Mom saying, 'It's a fire. Get out,'" said Dale, 29. "All the smoke came in, and I tumbled down the stairs."

Those who escaped with Dale were taken to a hospital, but details on their conditions were not available.

"It's very, very sad," said Highland Park's emergency financial manager, Arthur Blackwell. The cash-strapped 2.9-square-mile city just outside Detroit has been run by a state-appointed emergency financial manager for years.

The fire spread along the neighborhood, burning three homes to the ground — including the one occupied by the victims — and gutting two others. The neighborhood, one block from a busy freeway, consists of older, two-story homes, many of them vacant, including three of those struck by Wednesday's fire. All people in the other occupied home that burned managed to escape, officials said.

One of the poorest communities
Highland Park once held Chrysler's headquarters and was the site of a Ford Motor Co. Model T factory that employed 100,000 workers. However, those auto industry facilities are long gone — along with the tax revenue they provided.

The city has knocked down hundreds of vacant structures, Blackwell said, but officials are hampered by the fact that more are being abandoned all the time.

"It's one of the poorest communities in the state," he said. "They're suffering here, disproportionately more."

Elsewhere, an early morning blaze killed four people in a mobile home in the east Texas town of Nacogdoches, about 150 miles southeast of Dallas.

Fire Chief Keith Kiplinger said the bodies of two women and two children, ages 3 and 4, were found in a back bedroom.

Firefighters said flames were "high in the trees" over the house when they arrived.

The cause of the fire was under investigation. The home did not have smoke detectors, Kiplinger said.