Mom educates children, families after tragically losing young son in fire

Honoring the memory of Michael Johnson
Kevin Campbell

Michael Johnson

A Charlotte mom is working to save lives while honoring the memory of 9-year-old Michael Johnson.   


Michael and his 23-year-old cousin, Mechelle Morrison, both died after a cooking fire in May 2018 on Rose Thorn Place in Charlotte.    


Michael’s guardian, Dominique Bradley, is using this tragedy to protect other families from the same heartbreak. She was his legal guardian from the age of 5, until the day he died.  


“Michael was a vibrant child and full of life. He always wanted to help, and his love and grace was always felt in his presence. His love was contagious.”  


Bradley wants to make sure that children Michael’s age, and the public, know his story and understand how to protect themselves from fire dangers.     


“I didn’t just want him to be another sad story on the news. I wanted his name to live on. Although I’m not able to still have my child here, I don’t want another parent to feel what I felt. I don’t want another child to feel what Michael felt in his last moments,” she said.   


A fire can become life-threatening in just two minutes. A residence can be engulfed in flames in five minutes. A working smoke alarm significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire. Follow these tips to make sure it keeps you safe:   


  • Replace batteries twice a year, unless you are using 10-year lithium batteries.    

  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, including the basement.    

  • Replace the entire smoke alarm unit every 10 years or according to the manufacturer’s instructions.    

  • Never disable a smoke alarm while cooking — it can be a deadly mistake.    

  • Audible alarms are available for visually impaired people, and smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for the hearing impaired.    


Home fires can be preventable. The following are simple steps that each of us can take to prevent a tragedy when cooking:    


  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. Turn off the stove if you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time.    

  • Wear short, closefitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.    

  • Position barbecue grills at least 10 feet away from siding and deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.    

  • Keep a fire extinguisher accessible.    


I’m missing so many milestones with Michael. I want to get out there in the community and make a change and make difference. Rather than stay in bed and cry, as much as I miss my son, as much as I miss our moments, the community needs to know that it’s not just my child and that this can happen to anyone’s child,” Bradley said.    


Additionally, this will be the fifth year that Bradley has partnered with Charlotte Fire through her program, Michael's House, for a book-bag drive in Michael's honor.   


All book bags donated at Charlotte Fire will be accepted in the loving memory of Michael Johnson.     


She's working to fill them with supplies kids need for school and fire safety materials to help protect them at home.    


“Being able to honor the memory of Michael is very special for Charlotte Fire,” Charlotte Fire Chief Reginald Johnson said.     


Since 1997, in partnership with Classroom Central and Communities in Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, the WSOC-TV 9 School Tools program has collected school supplies, which are then distributed free to students in grades K-12.    


“People give whatever you can give — whatever’s in your heart,” Johnson said. “Even if it’s an eraser, a pack of pencils, those will be sent to good use at Classroom Central and will help out students in need.”   


Many of the more vulnerable and low-income families depend on Classroom Central for assistance.    


“I lost Michael but I forever gained a family at the fire department. It’s about giving back. It breaks me down every year just to hug the firefighter who went back and tried to save my son. To me, that’s my healing.”    


The school supplies will be distributed at Classroom Central’s Free Store, a retail operation where teachers and other school personnel from eligible schools shop for free supplies throughout the academic year.    


Classroom Central serves teachers and students in nearly 200 schools across six school districts in the Charlotte region. Supplies are distributed through its Free Store, Mobile Free Store and several other community-supported programs.    


All materials distributed are used to create inviting learning environments and to support the academic and personal growth of students whose families lack the resources needed to purchase school supplies.    


Donations can be made through Aug. 31, 2022.