HARTLAND, Mich. — A Livingston County family is working to recover after a house fire early Monday morning.
Fire crews say when they responded around 3:00 a.m., flames, and smoke were swallowing the farmhouse. A family, composed of two parents and seven children, made it out by the time fire crews arrived on scene, narrowly escaping through a second-story window.
"I think Lindsay went down first and then the bigger kids were lowering the littler kids to Lindsay and then by the end I think some of them were just jumping because it was so smoky," said Lauren Pearn of her sister Lindsay Rowe's family.
The farmhouse, owned by Lindsay and AJ Rowe, still stands but is covered with wood paneling and charred siding. Pearn says the family sustained injuries sending her brother-in-law and several nieces and nephew to the hospital.
"This is what nightmares are made of, seeing these kids in these beds," said Pearn.
Tuesday afternoon, Pearn said every family member that was admitted to the hospital is making progress. It's not clear the exact injuries each family member sustained.
"Mom and dad, from what I understand, are true heroes. Dad became a firefighter at 3:06 in the morning with no training and from what I understand rescued his entire family," said Lt. Trey Herrington with the Hartland Deerfield Fire Authority.
Herrington says nearly 40 firefighters from multiple agencies helped to extinguish the fire that made it to all three floors of the home. Fire crews believe the fire started in the laundry room but are still working to determine a cause. They say working fire alarms in the home likely played a big part in alerting the family in time.
"This is not something we want any family to go through because it could’ve been a lot worse," said Herrington.
While the home is likely a total loss, the family still has their pole barn and their beloved woodworking business: Rustic Marine.
"When Lindsay and AJ met, they started Rustic Marine as a woodworking company, just as something to keep AJ's mind busy but also at the time they had a growing family," said Pearn.
According to the business's website, the two started the company after AJ, who is a USMC Veteran, returned from war. The website says AJ struggled to find his place in the job market, but soon decided to turn his DIY talent into a business.
A Facebook page for the Rustic Marine shows 25,000 followers. Pearn says her sister and brother-in-law's business has grown so much over the years, they've hosted craft classes, farm-to-table dinners, and allowed photographers to use their property as a backdrop. Rowe has also been able to host artisan markets for small businesses in the spring and during Black Friday.
The family says they believe their support of others in the past is partially the reason they've seen such an outpouring of support following the fire. A GoFundMeposted Monday has already exceeded $70,000 in donations.
"We’ve been overwhelmed by support, so thank you to everyone. (We need) continued prayers for physical healing but also emotionally. Obviously, after this, it’s going to be a long road," said Sam Troher, sister of Lindsay Rowe.
In addition to the Gofundme, the Hartland Deerfield Fire House located at 3205 Hartland Rd, Hartland, MI will be an official drop-off site for clothing donations. More information on the specific needs of the family can be found here. Donations will be accepted at any time, as the station is staffed 24/7.