Firefighters battle flames at 3 neighboring Highland Park homes - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

Firefighters battle flames at 3 neighboring Highland Park homes

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SkyFox image of the triple house fire in Highland Park  (Credit: Fox 2 News) SkyFox image of the triple house fire in Highland Park (Credit: Fox 2 News)
HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (WJBK) -

Family of Bill Thomas were holding on to hope.  The house where he lived in Highland Park burst into flames on Thursday.  Neighbors said it sounded like an explosion.  The flames so intense jumped to two other houses.

"I sent crews on both sides and tried to control it from there," said Chief Derek Hillman from the Highland Park Fire Department.

Two of the three houses were occupied, but they were all completely destroyed.  No one other than Thomas was unaccounted for.

Family said an oxygen tank helped Thomas to breathe.  They kept calling his cell phone, but he never answered.

Claudia Brantley said she hoped the Lord saved him.  "I hope he took him for a walk somewhere," she remarked.  "I'm not going to believe my brother-in-law [is] in there."

"You could feel the heat almost at the store.  So I came over here trying to see if everybody was okay and everything was cool," said Chris Hatcher.   "All I found was a family sitting over here, and they were out here shivering, cold and everything."

Hatcher just hit the lottery at the liquor store, but after meeting Thomas' family he knew what to do with his winnings.  He bought hot coffee for everyone and warm gloves for Thomas' niece.

"If we don't look out for each other, who else is going to look out for us?" he said.

After hours of waiting, news broke that human remains were found inside the house, not the news Thomas' family wanted, but the closure they needed.

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