HUMBOLDT PARK – A four-year-old boy has died and three other children are in critical condition after a fire Saturday night at an apartment in West Humboldt Park.
Just before midnight, a fire broke out in a garden apartment in the 4000 block of West Potomac Avenue, according to Deputy District Fire Chief Walter Schroeder.
The four-year-old boy was pronounced dead early Sunday morning, according to a statement from the Chicago Fire Department as well as firefighters on scene. His name was not released on Sunday afternoon. Two adults, along with three other children, were transported to area hospitals.
The adults, a 40-year-old woman and a 35-year-old man, are in good condition. The children, all boys aged five, seven and 11, are in critical condition, Schroeder said. All the victims suffered from smoke inhalation and the surviving children are intubated, according to firefighters.
Neighbors told Block Club they thought the children were all siblings.
Police and the city’s arson and bomb squad were investigating the scene Sunday morning.
According to Deputy District Chief Schroeder, firefighters arrived at 4032 W. Potomac Ave. and found the two adults outside, with heavy smoke billowing from the ground floor of the three apartments.
“[The firefighters] I was told the kids were inside,” Schroeder said. “They made an immediate and aggressive entry to get the children out. They came under heavy fire in the basement. They went there and they saved the four children.
Crews entered through the side of the building and smashed basement windows to help get the children out of the apartment. All four children were found in complete cardiac arrest, according to Schroeder.
Firefighters then performed CPR on the four on the promenade lawn outside the building, dividing the team so that one part worked on the children while the others put out the fire.
“Our guys did an amazing job with resuscitation,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said the fire was quickly put out after the children were rescued.
” It was quick. Our guys are like surgeons. They figured that out in ten minutes once everyone was out,” he said.
The fire was contained to the ground floor of the building, according to firefighters. The basement apartment was badly damaged, while the two upstairs apartments suffered minor smoke damage. The cause of the fire remains undetermined.
Schroeder said the building had a smoke alarm and he heard it go off when he arrived on the scene, though he’s not sure he was in the deputy’s apartment. floor. He said a door in the back of the apartment was the only exit from the basement, other than the building’s front door, which is located on the upper floor.
“It’s not just a smoke detector that’s needed. You should also have a second way out,” he said.
Schroeder said the chief spoke with firefighters involved in the rescue earlier Sunday morning. He said they were in good spirits, considering the situation.
“Last night the chef was very upset for obvious reasons. You had four pediatric patients, lying on the floor, with guys doing CPR on them,” he said. “It’s not something normal.”
On Sunday morning, firefighters and police were on the scene, probing the quiet block on the border of the Humboldt Park and Austin neighborhoods. A small memorial for the family, including candles, flowers and a stuffed animal, rested on the fence outside the building.
Ed Ortiz, who lives next to the victims’ building, said he went outside on Sunday evening after hearing screams, screams and smashed windows. He witnessed the response, which he described as prompt and professional.
“They came quickly,” Ortiz told Block Club. “Then they started taking the kids out, one at a time. All the children were doing CPR. Each child did not answer.
The family moved into the apartment about a year ago, according to Ortiz. Although he didn’t know them well, he said the children engaged in playful howling matches with his two dogs. He said no fund had yet been set up, but thought the community organization Nobel Neighbors was working on something for the family.
Nobel Neighbors could not immediately be reached for comment.
Neighbor Paula Thomas, who lives downstairs from the house, said she watched the children play on Friday, running down the street to buy ice cream.
Ortiz said he’s lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, and while there have been shootings and other incidents, he said he’s never seen a fire as hard-hitting as the one on Saturday night .
“It’s bad,” he said.
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