A 2-year-old and 3-year-old were killed early Saturday after being left alone in an apartment where a fire started. Michelle Relerford reports for NBC News at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012.
Police said two toddlers, who died in a fire early Saturday morning, were left alone with two other children when the blaze broke out inside their Englewood home.
Family and friends gathered for a vigil to honor 2-year-old Jaryiah and 3-year-old Jarvis Meakens at 8 p.m. Saturday. The two siblings were alone with two other children with the blaze ignited.
Investigators are questioning their mother Tatiana Meakens.
Fire officials found that a hot plate being used for heat caused the fatal fire. When the flames ignited, a relative helped two boys to safety, but Jariyah and Jarvis remained trapped inside the apartment.
"They said they heard the baby crying, beating on the door but they couldn't go back to get her cause they were choking on the smoke," said neighbor Tiffany Williams as to what the 7 and 4-year-old boys who managed to escape the fire told her.
A resident who called 911 just before 3:30 a.m. told authorities young children were trapped inside the burning home in the 6400 block of South Paulina Street, Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said. When firefighters arrived, the fire had blown out a window, with the open air feeding the flames.
“Everybody concentrated and made a frantic search to find them,” said Langford.
But “extensive” fire made it difficult for firefighters to get into the rear bedroom where the flames started -- the same room where the children were located.
Witnesses said the children's mother was frantic.
"She was going crazy, no one could control her," Williams said.
Firefighters used a saw to cut the bars off a basement window to try and reach the children, but were unable to rescue Jariyah or Jarvis in time. They found the children's bodies in a middle bedroom of the three bedroom apartment located on the first floor of the home.
Fire investigators continue to investigate the cause of the fire. Investigators are also talking with the mother, who police said left the four children home alone.
"They said their mother was getting dressed told them to go in their room and go to sleep," said Williams. "They said they were left there alone and they'd been there by themselves for a long time."
The two surviving children were taken into the custody of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, while authorities continue their investigation.
Crews have not found any working smoke detectors in the home, Langford said. The Chicago Fire Department canvassed the neighborhood on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m., to pass out smoke alarms and share fire safety information.
The fire left substantial damage to the basement and first floor of the two-story grey stone building, rendering the home uninhabitable.