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Partially paralyzed uncle credited with saving child in fire that displaced 13 kids

The family, now facing homelessness, was living together under one roof in Marlow Heights after a number of family tragedies drew them together

MARLOW HEIGHTS, Md. — A partially-paralyzed man is credited with saving the life of his 1-year-old nephew during a catastrophic house fire in Marlow Heights that has left a grandmother and 13 children homeless, according to family members and fire investigators.

The family was living together under one roof in the 4500 block of Old Branch Avenue in Marlow Heights after a number of family tragedies drew them together, according to Nikita Hilton, the sister of family matriarch Renee Francis.

Francis is the family's "rock," Hilton said. The family's goal in the wake of the fire is to keep the children together, she added.

According to Prince George's Fire/EMS officials, the fire broke out in the basement Thursday afternoon and smoke detectors in the house went off. 

RELATED: Child and adult seriously injured, 15 displaced following house fire in Prince George's County

All the children's lives were on the line, according to Hilton, as Francis unsuccessfully attempted to put out the fire with an extinguisher and then scrambled to get everyone out.

Francis was unable to get to her disabled son, Robert, a man in his 30's who has been partially paralyzed since suffering a gunshot wound more than a decade ago, according to Hilton.

Robert was trapped by heavy smoke along with a 1-year-old boy named Kaiden.

Credit: WUSA9/Francis family photo
Some of Renee Francis' 13 grandchildren seen in front of the home that burned and left the family homeless Thursday

Hilton said Robert was able to cover himself and Kaiden with a blanket despite his severe disability while awaiting rescue by responding firefighters. The move may have dampened enough of the smoke to save Kaiden's life, according to Hilton, who called Robert's actions heroic. 

Hilton's account was confirmed by a county Fire/EMS spokesman.

A GoFundMe page has been launched to help Francis rebuild the family's lives and keep the 13 grandchildren together.

"These kids are her life," Hilton said. "Without these kids, she feels like she couldn't have a life at all."

Francis works as a Certified Nursing Assistant and is the primary caregiver for her disabled son and all the children. Three of the grandchildren were orphaned after their parents, including one of Francis' daughters, were killed in a car accident, Hilton said.

Fire investigators have not determined a cause for the fire and the incident remains under investigation, authorities said.

RELATED: 4 people rescued from apartment fire in New Carrolton, PGFD says

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