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Fire kills 2; girl severely burned

Sharon Mack woke up to a woman pounding on her door early Friday morning.

The woman, carrying a young child, had just escaped her burning home across the street. A severely burned 8-year-old girl soon followed.

“She was burned from her head to her feet,” Mack said.

The mother yelled that her loved ones were still in the big house at the corner of Humber and Litchfield avenues on Buffalo’s East Side. The father had carried the 8-year-old out of the house, and then went back inside to look for more of his family. He never made it out.

He and another man living in the multifamily home at 90 Humber Ave. died.

A source identified Demetrius Johnson, 24, as the father who rescued his daughter from the burning house, and then died after going back inside.

The other fatality was a 49-year-old man who lived in the upstairs apartment. His name has not been released.

The 8-year-old, Treasure Brighon, who suffered burns over 90 percent of her body, was flown to the Shriners Hospitals for Children burn care unit in Cincinnati after being transported to Women & Children’s Hospital.

Two other children – Demaris Johnson, 15 months, and Demetrius Thomas Johnson, 3 – were injured in the fire.

The 15-month-old boy was treated in Women & Children’s and then released, according to the hospital. The 3-year-old boy was receiving treatment for smoke inhalation in an intensive care unit, the hospital said.

The fire played out in sudden and tragic ways early Friday.

Now, some of the attention is shifting to smoke detectors and electrical issues.

The blaze, reported shortly after 4 a.m., resulted in severe damage to the home.

Gary Matthews, who lives across the street, said he has never seen a building go up in flames that quickly. Matthews said his wife alerted him to the fire and he saw smoke coming out of an attic window.

“By the time I put my robe on, the whole house was in flames,” he said.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield said Friday afternoon.

One other person appeared to have made it out of the home without injury – the nephew of the 49-year-old man who perished.

The mother of the children, Tempest Thomas, rescued Demaris, but Whitfield said firefighters from Ladder 7 carried young Demetrius out of the burning home.

Earlier in the day, the neighbor, Mack, said she could see burns to the girl’s hair and entire body. Her clothes had been burned off.

The girl was screaming in pain, Mack said. “It was just like a nightmare,” she said.

Fire investigators were looking at an electrical malfunction as a possible cause of the fire, according to a source close to the investigation.

Investigators were looking at electrical connections in the multifamily house.

Investigators also are trying to determine if the house had working smoke detectors. Regardi ng that question, Whitfield said: “We will give it our due diligence.”

The family of the 24-year-old victim, Johnson, said Friday that the home had smoke detectors but they did not function in the fire.

They also said the home had electrical issues shortly before the fire.

At City Hall, Whitfield said officials were trying to be “respectful of the grieving process” in questioning those who escaped the fire about whether they heard smoke alarms.

Whitfield said two firefighters suffered minor burns and were treated and released at Erie County Medical Center.

The fire commissioner said “any time we lose a person in a fire, it’s very devastating not just to family but to community and first responders.”

A ladder truck was brought in to help investigators get a view from above at the fire scene. A fire marshal and Buffalo police photographer went up in the ladder.

A Buffalo police officer was the first responder at the scene and spoke to the father before the man went back inside, Whitfield said.

The Red Cross was assisting four adults and four children.

The family downstairs had just moved in about a week ago, a neighbor said, while the two in the upstairs apartment had moved in about two months ago.

Property records show that the owner is Sayara Uddin, who lives in Brooklyn. The two-family house was purchased in 2013 for $24,500, according to county records.

The house is assessed at $46,000. The city Inspections Department said there were no code violations listed for the address. Uddin also owns property at 2097 Bailey Ave., according to property records.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com and msommer@buffnews.com