A 3-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl died this morning after they and two other children were left home alone in the Englewood neighborhood, officials say. (Posted Dec. 22nd, 2012)
A young boy and girl died in a fire this morning after they and two other children were left home alone in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side, officials say.
The girl, 2, and the boy, 3, were found in a back bedroom after firefighters cut through burglar bars on the brick and stone two-flat in the 6400 block of South Paulina Street.
"Please, sergeant, please," a relative pleaded with an officer outside the home. "They're 2 and 3 years old."
A hot plate being used for heat sparked the fire while the four children, alone in the apartment, slept in two bedrooms, according to fire officials. Police said the children's mother and aunt were being questioned.
The surviving children, a 7-year-old boy and his 4-year-old brother, were rescued by an aunt and interviewed by investigators at a neighbor's home.
Darnell, 7, said he and Marquis, 4, had fallen asleep watching Batman cartoons. The two other children -- his 2-year-old sister and 3-year-old cousin -- were asleep in another bedroom. When he woke up, the fire was already burning.
"When the fire started, everything shut off," Darnell said.
The boy said he and Marquis were in a bedroom by the kitchen and "the fire was in the front room where the couch is at. When we saw the fire, it was like in the front room, then it was by the bathroom door."
Darnell said his aunt came rushing through the front door. "When (she) saw the fire, she called all our names. When I opened the door, she told me, 'Come on, the fire's getting closer.' I coughed, my auntie was choking. My sister was banging on the door.
"When we got outside, police passed us, then drove backward and came up because there was a fire," he said.
Darnell and Marquis were brought to a neighbor's house, where investigators from the Bomb and Arson unit and the Office of Fire Investigations (OFI) talked to them.
The investigator from OFI squatted down while talking to the boys. Only Darnell spoke. Marquis was quiet the entire time. Darnell spoke to a Tribune reporter afterward as he sat with four neighbors, all adults, in their home.
The children were later taken into protective custody by the Department of Children and Family Services.
When firefighters arrived around 3:30 a.m., they weren't able to get into the home because of intense heat and fire, a Chicago Fire Department official said. Fire was heavy throughout the basement and first floor, he said.
Firefighters cut through burglar bars on the windows, he said.
Firefighters eventually found the two children cuddled up in a bed, fire officials said at a news conference.
The basement windows were all shattered. A white Christmas tree, smudged with smoke, stood near front room window.
A neighbor told an investigator that the second-floor tenants recently moved out of the brick and stone two-flat.
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