They screamed, “we’re burning.”
That’s the word from witnesses of a Chicago apartment fire that ravaged a three-storey building early Sunday morning and claimed the lives of six children while injuring their mother and three more.
All of the kids, ages three to 14 were trapped in the inferno – a house without electrictity or a smoke detector on the city’s North Side.
“This is the largest multiple fire fatality we’ve had from a single fire in quite a few years,” said visibly shaken Fire Commissioner Raymond Orozco.
“I mean it’s children. It’s difficult for everyone involved,” he added.
It’s believed a candle used for light caused the fire.
“It appears that candles were used in the apartment and right now our preliminary cause is that the candles were the cause of origin,” Orozco said.
Commonwealth Edison spokesman John Dewey confirmed the power had been cut since May, but he wouldn’t say why.
When firefighters finally reached and entered the home, they found most of the children huddled in the apartment’s front room, not far from where the fire likely started.
Al Tillman, a 32-year-old visiting the area, heard the children yelling, ran to the third floor, crawled into the smoke-filled apartment and managed to drag the boy outside before handing him to paramedics.
“I’m shaken up because the other children didn’t make it,” Tillman said. “I only heard one child. I wish I could have saved the others.”
The dead were identified by the Cook County medical examiner’s office as Venessa Ramirez, 14; Eric Ramirez, 12; Suzette Ramirez, 10; Idaly Ramirez, six; Kevin Ramirez, three; and Escarlet Ramos, three.
The mother and one of the surviving children are in stable condition at Thorek Memorial Hospital, while the two others were at other hospitals with their conditions temporarily withheld.