According to news reports, it sounds like an open door or possibly two open doors, along with an illegally locked second exit and insufficient smoke detectors may have contributed to the deaths of 4 children in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood.
Darlene Jones, 31, lives on the second floor of the building where the blaze happened. She was woken and smelled smoke when her dog, Toto, started “persistently” barking. Jones opened her front door and saw flames in the apartment across the hall, which she says has been vacant for about two months. She added that she has complained to her landlord several times about “a bunch of guys” going in and out of that unit since it was abandoned.
At one point, Jones looked up the stairwell from her hallway and saw a woman–the one who later jumped–struggling to find a way off the third floor, where smoke had also become very thick. She said that woman’s unit’s back door was blocked for almost a year by a wooden slab and suspects that’s the reason she was forced to jump.
Four children dead in Chicago fire; two adults critically hurt – NY Daily News
She said she wondered how they would escape because their back door would stick closed.
Jones said she heard the mother screaming, “’It’s in the hall! It’s in the hall! It’s in the hall!”’
Later Jones saw the mother’s body on the ground.
“I knew those kids were gone,” Jones said.
The blaze appeared to start on the second floor, creeping up a stairwell to the third floor, Langford said. Smoke detectors in common areas were
Albert Miller, who lives on the second floor, said he saw two people jump from the building.
Fire leaves four children dead, two adults critical – Chicago Sun-Times
Two adults, including the children’s mother, also were critically injured the extra-alarm fire on the Far South Side, officials said.
The blaze began on the second floor of an 18-unit building in the 11200 block of South Vernon Avenue at 3:25 a.m., authorities said.
Eri’ana and her three siblings were found in a third-floor unit, said Larry Langford, Fire Media Affairs director.
There were no working smoke detectors in either the unit where the children were found or in the second-floor unit where the fire started, Langford said. However, hard-wired detectors were sounding in the building’s hallways, he added.
City records also show the building had failed its most recent building inspection, earlier this year.
The firefighters rushed up the burning stairs and found four children — ages 6 to 16 — dead in the bedroom of a small third-floor apartment.
The oldest child, Carliysia Clark, 16, was found in an alcove apparently trying to shield a younger child, Langford said. “She was on top of the child.”
The family identified the other children as Eriana Smith, 6; Shamarion Clark, 11; and Carlvon Clark, 13. They were all pronounced dead at the scene.
Their mother, Shamaya Coleman, and her boyfriend are expected to survive their jump from the third floor. They were taken in critical condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. The boyfriend was later transferred to Loyola University Medical Center with injuries caused by breathing superheated air.
Langford said the family became trapped when the fire spread from a vacant second-floor apartment, down a hallway and up a stairwell to the third floor. Someone inside the apartment, apparently alerted to the fire, opened the front door and the flames raced into the living room, he said.
The flames blocked the family from getting out the back door, which was barred from the inside by a piece of wood, Langford said.
“Someone left the door open and the living room was engulfed in flames,” he said. “They couldn’t make it out through the living room to the back door. The bar could have been removed if they had made it to the door.”
The ABC7 I-Team found city of Chicago building records online that show the apartment building failed several inspections in the last nine years, including the most recent one, in June.
Inspectors said the owners failed to install and maintain adequate smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. They also found water damage, leaking ceilings, broken doors, broken or improperly installed furnaces, roach infestations and structural damage, among other issues.
According to the City of Chicago’s building data, the building failed more than 20 inspections since 2006. The most recent inspection in June of 2014 found several broken doors, missing locks, leaks causing water damage, missing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and a broken third floor kitchen door. The building last passed inspection in February of 2014, according to the website.
The owner of the building could not be reached for comment.