The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A father saved his toddler twins as fire destroyed home: ‘I had to get my babies out’

Ray Lucas, pictured here holding his twin daughters, ran into their burning home in Eastpointe, Mich., and saved his girls this month. (Screenshot via WJBK/YouTube)

Ray Lucas could only think of one thing when he returned home to see his family’s Michigan home engulfed in fire and his mother yelling for help: He had to get to the basement if he wanted to save Milan and Malaysia, his twin 18-month-old daughters.

Lucas, who had just returned from a quick trip with girlfriend Shi’Ann Brown to pick up milk, realized the girls were sleeping in their crib in the basement and trapped inside the home on July 17. Knowing he could not wait for help, the 23-year-old rushed into the fire that was ravaging the home in Eastpointe, Mich.

“I just knew I had to get my babies out,” he said to WJBK. “That’s what went through my mind.”

Despite not being able to see anything in front of him, Lucas saved his girls and made it out alive, but they suffered severe burns that hospitalized them. Now, as the family faces mounting medical expenses and a house that is uninhabitable, online fundraising efforts have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars for them, and Lucas has been hailed celebrated for his actions.

“Without hesitation, the [babies’] father ran into the engulfed burning house through flames and managed to save his twin daughters,” Gwendolyn Powell-Dixon, Lucas’s aunt, wrote on a GoFundMe page set up for the family.

The cause of the fire remains unclear, local authorities said, and the incident is under investigation. Powell-Dixon said an electrical fire started in the basement. The family dealt with flooding in the home the day before the fire, Lucas told local media.

Efforts to reach Lucas, Brown and family members were unsuccessful Saturday. No one responded to requests for comment left for officials with the Eastpointe fire and police departments.

Lucas and Brown, the girls’ 23-year-old mother, made a 15-minute run to the corner store shortly after midnight on July 17. The couple and the twins were staying with Lucas’s mother, and his niece at the home in Eastpointe, about 25 miles northeast of Detroit, WJBK reported.

When he pulled up to the home, Lucas recalled a frantic scene in which his mother, who was watching the girls, was pleading for anyone to help retrieve the twins. The fire had quickly spread through the home, including the basement, where Milan and Malaysia were sleeping.

Lucas ran into the home and quickly realized the smoke prevented him from seeing much in front of him. He told local media his knowledge of the layout of the home guided him through the fire and toward his girls.

“I really only found my babies due to my memory, just knowing where they were and knowing how to get to them — just from having that same route,” he said.

By the time the father made it to the crib, he found the girls awake and responsive but in shock from what was going on around them, Lucas told CNN.

“I was so happy they were responsive,” he said.

Clutching his 18-month-old girls against his chest, Lucas walked back through the smoke, again using muscle memory to figure out where he needed to go to escape the flames.

After he exited the house with his daughters, Lucas realized his niece was still trapped inside. He told her to jump from a second-story window and caught her, CNN reported.

Although Lucas and his girls made it out alive, their injuries left them hospitalized. Both girls spent a few days in the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit — Malaysia had severe burns on her arms, eyes and cheek, while Milan suffered second- and third-degree burns on her legs and feet.

Lucas had second- and third-degree burns on his face, neck and arms that caused skin discoloration, he told WJBK, and he was temporarily blind for three days because of cornea damage from the smoke.

“They said it was a miracle I could see,” he said.

The hospital bills and lack of a home has left Lucas and his family struggling in recent days. Lucas and his family members are living with another family in Detroit until they figure out their living situation, he told CNN. Powell-Dixon said Lucas is worried his injuries will prevent him from returning to work.

“Their house was completely destroyed,” she said. “The family lost absolutely everything in the fire.”

Since Lucas’s story first made headlines this month, the GoFundMe started by Powell-Dixon has raised more than $387,000 as of Saturday afternoon. The outpouring from more than 10,000 donors has far exceeded the fundraiser’s initial goal of $40,000.

The past two weeks have been surreal for Lucas, who has acknowledged the physical and mental burden the family faces after the fire. But he noted to CNN that the burns on his arms was a small price to pay for keeping his baby girls alive from the blaze that upended their lives.

“I was ecstatic my babies were okay and everybody was able to walk away from [the] situation,” the father said. “We didn’t lose anyone.”

Have a story for Inspired Life? Here’s how to submit.

Loading...