Metro Detroiters support two families after fatal fires

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
  • Cass Tech student lost mother and sister in fire
  • Wyandotte girl died in Ecorse house fire

Shortly after losing her mother, sister and belongings in a devastating fire on Detroit’s west side, Camyrea Barnes is focused on an incredible challenge: moving ahead.

As she recovered last week from burns in the Sept. 14 blaze, the 16-year-old senior at Cass Technical High School asked for homework to complete in her hospital room. And in trying moments, Camyrea is “quoting Scripture to her sister for uplift,” said the teen’s aunt, Bobbie Romans. “She.’s amazing.”

The tragedy that befell Camyrea’s family, as well as the painful healing process, has inspired an outpouring of support. Friends, classmates and others are raising money for funeral costs. Her family also seeks financial assistance since they lost their clothes, furniture and other possessions in the fire.

“They don’t know where they’ll go,” Romans said. “They need monetary donations just so they make sure they get all the necessities they need. … They need so much.”

It’s the second major effort in Metro Detroit to lift a family rocked by a fatal fire this month.

A fundraiser is planned for Tuesday at the Stray Cat Bar & Grill in Riverview for relatives of Kayla Martinez. The 11-year-old Wyandotte girl died Sept. 14 in an Ecorse house fire that authorities said was accidental.

“We’re just trying to do everything we can for their family,” said bar co-owner Julie Cramer, a close family friend.

A fire swiftly ravaged the Barnes home early Sept. 14, Romans said.

City fire officials said the cause has not yet been determined, but the fire appears accidental.

Camyrea helped her younger sister escape through a door, she said. But her mother and another sister died.

The teen’s father also was hospitalized. Another sister was not injured.

After learning about the incident, a Cass Tech teacher contacted an acquaintance at Detroit’s O.H. Pye III Funeral Home and secured a discount for services, said Lisa Phillips, the school’s principal.

Friends with For Girls Only, a mentoring group Camyrea is active in at Cass Tech, also spearheaded a collection effort, Phillips said. About half of the group’s $6,000 goal had been raised by late last week, she said.

Meanwhile, offers to help are flowing in from school alumni, parents and others — including one to clothe Camyrea for the rest for the year and another to match the funds raised, Phillips said. “It’s amazing the outpouring of support for this family.”

Camyrea — who turns 17 on Tuesday — hopes to resume her schedule and studies as quickly as possible. A National Honor Society member with a 3.96 grade-point average, she plays violin with the school orchestra and is on an executive board for her class.

The teen plans to apply to Harvard University and other colleges. Her goal is to become a math teacher and, someday, launch a scholarship for students with learning or other disabilities, she said.

Camyrea credits her faith for aiding her recovery. She said the strength gained can “testify to other people that they can make it. No matter what the situation is, they can overcome with the grace and the strength of God.”

A desire to offer support after a grievous loss is guiding people Downriver to rally around the family of Kayla Martinez.

Hundreds are expected at Tuesday’s fundraiser, Cramer said. That attests to the spirit of a community that wants to remember “a very nice young lady” whose favorite color was pink, she said.

“We’re all devastated.”

To help

■For the Barnes family, donations may be made online at

■ The benefit for Kayla Martinez’s family is from 11 a.m. through midnight Tuesday at Stray Cat Bar & Grill, 18571 Fort, Riverview. Suggested donations for the spaghetti dinner are $10. There’s also a raffle. For information: (734) 283-9747