ST. LOUIS — A south St. Louis family was able to safely get out of their home as a fire spread early Wednesday morning. Even after they escaped, one family member ran back inside to get something they couldn't leave behind: their loved one's ashes.
Fire crews were called at about 1:30 a.m. to the 4700 block of Minnesota Avenue. Firefighters described the home as being fully involved by the flames.
The St. Louis Fire Department said it doesn't appear anyone was injured by the fire. However, the family's cat was found dead on the front porch hours after the flames were put out.
5 On Your Side spoke with the assistant fire chief who said it looks like the fire started on the front porch. The official also crews believe the fire might've been intentional.
The physical and emotional damage left behind is devastating for the family.
The woman who owns the house said she had to give up her homeowner's insurance last year because her 8-year-old son, Javon, drowned and died. We're told he passed away when they were on vacation in Texas.
The costs of retrieving and caring for the boy's remains was apparently too high for her to continue to make the payments on the insurance.
We're told one of the teenage girls, who was in the home at the time the fire broke out, ran back inside the burning home to get one thing the family just couldn't leave behind: her brother's ashes.
The neighbor who called 911 recalled the scene as the mother and family members made their way out.
“Her house was just in full-on flames. That’s all I could see was flames," said Brenda Duke. "She was standing there screaming. Her kids were trying to make it out. Her 16-year-old daughter ran back inside. Luckily, they grabbed her son's ashes and a few pictures. For the most part, everything is gone."
Duke said she started to get worried when she was put on hold by the 911 dispatch.
"I don't know how long I was on hold. They came back two or three times just to let me know I was still on hold and to keep holding," she said. "By the time I got done holding, the neighbor's house was starting to burn, melt and her house was just full-on in flames."
Inside the home, Duke says their mother had so many items of Javon in her bedroom.
"Pictures you can’t get back, his favorites toys. The little things that you don’t think mean that much, they are everything. They are a part of him and once it’s gone, you can’t get it back. Thank God no one was hurt, but losing things of Javon, it’s like losing him all over again," Duke said.
Duke said Javon was a sweet, thoughtful little boy and said he was the life of the street.
The St. Louis Fire Department said utility crews from Ameren Missouri and Spire Energy are working with fire investigators to get to the bottom of the cause of the fire.
St. Louis Fire Department wrote in a tweet that the fire displaced a family of five. We're told the Missouri Red Cross is working now to help the family. We have not confirmed how many people were in the home at the time of the fire.
A family member started a GoFundMe account to help with expenses. Those interested in contributed can click here to learn more.