Mother, daughter killed in Detroit house fire

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Detroit — A teenage neighbor who was shoveling snow alerted a Detroit man to a fire at his east-side home Monday, allowing him to escape, but the blaze killed the resident’s wife and daughter.

According to the Detroit Fire Department, crews were summoned about 6:11 a.m. to a home in the 11550 block of Wilfred, in an area near Gunston and Gratiot.

The victims have been identified as Hattie Simmons, 57, and her daughter, Tonquinia Simmons. The other person in the home was Charles Herrod, 62, husband of Hattie Simmons and father of Tonquinia.

“T.J. Williams, 15, lives across the street and he was out shoveling snow when he noticed a fire in the living room of the house,” said Capt. Patrick McNulty. “He ran to the front of the house, but the fire was growing so quickly that he ended up running to the back of the house. He broke down the back door and yelled for the occupants.”

Williams’ calls alerted Herrod, who was on the first floor of the home.

“The two females were on the second floor,” McNulty said. “We’re still trying to determine if the females were pulled out of the house or they were outside when the companies arrived.

“A scout car on one of the precincts saw the glow against the sky and alerted the companies, which got to the scene very quickly.”

According to McNulty, Herrod was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene and declined to be taken to a hospital.

“There were a lot of contents inside the home, which added to the fuel load for the fire,” McNulty said.

“There were also some issues with an excessive use of extension cords. Once the fire started, it moved rapidly from the living room and up the stairwell,” he said. “This caused most of the heavy smoke, which is why they didn’t make it.”

McNulty had high praise for Williams.

“He did just a fine job of alerting those people,” McNulty said. “His mother told him to get out there and shovel the snow and he ended up fighting a fire. Good work, mom.”

Williams is a 10th grader at East English Village High School.

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