Detroit Fire Department probes cause of deadly Christmas morning fire

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Detroit — The east-side fire that killed two children Christmas morning has been ruled accidental, but the Detroit Fire Department has not yet settled on a cause.

"We know there were a number of space heaters" in the house where De'Lon and Damarion Wheeler, 7 and 6, died, said Deputy Fire Commissioner Dave Fornell Saturday. "It did not appear the house had a functioning central furnace. We're kind of looking at that."

Two of the boys' siblings, Darius Jr., 10, and Delilah, 8, were injured in the blaze shortly before 9 a.m. in the 20000 block of Helen Street.

While Children's Hospital of Michigan does not give status updates on pediatric patients, the pair were listed in critical condition in the burn unit late Friday and could remain there for several weeks, according to their mother, Demika Pinson.

Fire damage is seen on the home on the 20000 block of Helen Street in Detroit on Saturday, December 26, 2020.

Pinson had jumped from the second floor with 2-year-old daughter Di'Yoir in her arms after she awoke feeling dizzy and short of breath. The two older children were also on the upper floor of the white-sided house south of Eight Mile and west of Van Dyke.

De'Lon and Damarion were downstairs, sleeping near the Christmas tree after having been allowed to open one present in the early hours of the holiday. Pinson told The Detroit News that her sixth child, an 11-month-old, was not at her home.

Snow-covered bicycles remained outside the burned home on Saturday.

Fornell said investigators hope to gain information from the older children once they're able to speak.

While not blaming the fire on space heaters, he did say that "the most important thing is to keep drapes, blankets or anything flammable away from them."

"Another thing," he cautioned, "is that you can't put too many in the house, because it may overload electrical circuits."

Also, he said, "we've seen fires where people have used multiple extension cords. Space heaters should be plugged directly into an outlet. Every extension cord could be a danger."

nrubin@detroitnews.com