Flames rip through 3 houses on Detroit's east side

Firefighters work to keep fire from spreading on Hardyke

By Paula Tutman - Reporter

DETROIT - Tiffanie Alston wanted to get a good night's sleep. 

A restaurant manager by profession, she's been unemployed for two years but finally scored a job interview. A nearby  McDonalds is looking for a manager.  Her interview was supposed to be later this morning.

But it wasn't an alarm clock that woke her this morning. Her wake-up call were flames, licking at her bedroom door. 

Heroically, Tiffanie ran to the bedrooms of her friend's children and got them outside. Her father lives in the basement. She beat back flames to get to him and pull him outside. When everyone was safe, Tiffanie took a moment to look back at what was left of her house. 

It wasn't much.

IMAGES: Fire destroys Detroit family's home

Tiffanie lives with  her 61-year-old father, a family friend, her three children and a dog Ginger. 

This was her home, not a rental, she owned it. A gift from a relative. But when Tiffanie lost her job, food was more important than insurance. 

Firefighters worked to save what they could. Several of the firefighters held Tiffanie's hand, gave her a hug and reminded her that she had saved the most valuable possessions -- lives. 

The Detroit Fire Department has two nightmares, right now: arsonists and scrappers.  Arsonists burn things down deliberately, scrappers steal metals to sell from abandoned houses.

The two houses next to Tiffanie's were abandoned and the investigator couldn't immediately see the point of ignition. But after finally getting in when the hotspots cooled he said it looked as though scrappers had been in the abandoned house next to Tiffanie's, stripped away all the metal piping and left a live, exposed gas line to catch fire. 

Here's the thing: When scrappers strike vacant houses and snare a home, it ups the ante on the crime. These aren't crimes against vacant houses, these aren't statements against a City, this isn't just for profit. Lives are put at risk. Lives of firefighters and lives of innocent citizens.That act puts people like Tiffanie and her family out of hard to come by homes they can already barely afford. 

Today, Tiffanie's home is her car with her father, her friend, three children and a dog.

The Red Cross hopes to have something temporary for her shortly. 

But that house on Van Dyke and Hardyke on the city's eastside was a home.  And with everything Tiffanie has to worry about today, the other big thing on her mind is that job interview she won't get to this morning because of that fire.

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