LATEST: Fatal Fire Began In Children’s Bedroom, Two Perished

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DECATUR Ala. (WHNT) - Fire investigators say the blaze that killed two pre-school age children Thursday morning began in the children's bedroom but the exact cause has yet to be determined.

"It doesn't appear suspicious, anything that we have seen, at this time," said Battalion Chief Fire Marshall Jason Jones during a 5 p.m. press conference.

Dexter Miland Jr., 2,  and Marlena Miland, 4,  died in the fire that broke out at the West Ridge Apartments on 5th Avenue on Thursday morning. Neighbors reported the fire around 7:30 a.m. Firefighters say flames were shooting from several windows and advancing toward the roof when they arrived.

Decatur Police Lt. John Crouch says an 8-year-old child in the apartment first noticed the smoke and went to wake up his parents. "They tried to get into the bedroom where the two young children were but by that time they said the smoke and flames were too much for them to make entry," Lt. Crouch said. Police say Dexter Miland also tried to get into the bedroom through a window but was once again turned back by the heat and smoke.

A neighbor told WHNT News 19 late Thursday afternoon that the sound of people yelling outside her apartment alerted her about the fire. She says she saw heavy smoke pouring out of the building and people were making their way outside. She says the "entire building seemed to have exploded into flames."

Several relatives and neighbors told WHNT News 19 they could hear the oldest of the two children, Marlena, screaming for help while her parents frantically tried to reach the children.

The apartment complex is just across from Brookhaven Middle School and Decatur's Aquadome Recreational Complex. It's a series of four-unit, two-story apartment buildings. The fire was confined to the one building.

A state fire marshal investigator joined Decatur Fire & Rescue arson investigators who spent the day Thursday sifting through the rubble. The burned unit has been roped off and a Decatur Police officer has been stationed outside of the building for the night. Investigators are expected to return to the scene Friday morning to continue their search for clues to the cause of the fire.

Stay with WHNT News 19 on air, online and on social media for updates.


  • Concerned

    The owner is to blame for this tragedy.He owns property all over Decatur and is to cheap to ensure proper installation of wiring or light fixtures which most likely caused this fire. When everything is done under the table, stuff like this will continue to happen unless Dr. Patrick E Crow/ Global Finance/ Triad Funding is stopped.My heart goes out to this family. I only pray Tanetha has the strength to go after this man for the pain he has surely caused!!!

  • Decatur Woman

    Ann Malone, you must not have kids of your own. The father did what a normal person would have!! That is do all he possibly could do to get to his screaming children!! You are very stupid, ignorant and cold hearted! Prayers going out to the family, such a sad tradegy!

  • KB

    Poor babies! My heart goes out to the family. Ann Malone, I don’t know what story you think you are commenting on but you make no sense at all.

  • Christopher

    This is such a terrible tragedy! My heart goes out to the family, especially the parents and their sibling.

  • clay

    Where is the how to help?(link) I don’t have much, I am able to help a little with needed items. This is a sad situation for all involved. I’d like to help but am unable to find a link to help with needed items.

  • asia

    So sad in prayer for you guys but just hold on you still have on to live for don’t blame yourself you tried to reach them

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