GoFundMe Campaigns Raise Thousands for Families of Little Village Fire Victims

At least three GoFundMe campaigns raised several thousands of dollars in a matter of days after 10 children were killed in Chicago's deadliest fire in more than a decade. 

One started by the community group La Villita Chi had raised more than $25,000 of a $50,000 goal by Wednesday morning, aimed at covering funeral and hospital costs for the three families impacted. 

A second campaign by Enlace Chicago raised more than $22,000 by Wednesday morning. Both organizations said they were accepting donations, both of funds as well as home goods, food and clothes, at various locations. 

A 14-year-old boy died Tuesday, becoming the tenth person to die in a tragic house fire on Chicago's West Side that claimed the lives of three other teens and six young children. 

The Cook County Medical Examiner's office said Adrian Hernandez was pronounced dead at 11:12 a.m. Tuesday at Stroger Hospital, where family members said he had been on life support since the deadly fire.  

Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said the fire is Chicago's deadliest blaze since at least 2000 and may be its deadliest since 1993, when 19 people were killed by a fire that swept through the Paxton Hotel, a single-room occupancy residential hotel.

The medical examiner's office on Monday publicly identified three of the children who were killed as 3-month-old Amaya Almaraz, 10-year-old Giovanni Monarrez and 16-year-old Victor Mendoza. All three were listed as residents of the block where the fire occurred but, per office policy, their exact addresses were not listed.

Family members identifed the other victims as Ariel Garcia, 5; Xavier Contreras, 11; and Nathan Contreras, 13. A 3-year-old and a 5-year-old who also died in the fire have not yet been identified by authorities.

On Monday night, the medical examiner also said that 14-year-old Cesar Contreras had also died

The children who died were a close-knit group of siblings, cousins and family friends, family members said. 

A third GoFundMe campaign for Victor Mendoza had raised more than $2,000 of a $5,000 goal by Wednesday morning, saying the teen "meant the world" to his relatives and his death "left an empty feeling in their lives that will never be replaced."

Autopsies were conducted on the remains of all the victims but the medical examiner's office said it would not release the cause and manner of death until the Fire Department completes its investigation.

Investigators seeking the cause of the fire were searching the porch area where the blaze started for evidence of fireworks, cigarettes or other smoking materials, a fire official said Monday.

Langford said children had been known to have set off fireworks from the porch of the Southwest Side apartment that caught fire before dawn on Sunday. People had also used the spot to smoke cigarettes, he said.

Although investigators haven't determined what caused the fire, they don't think it was deliberately set and they have ruled out any problems with the building's electrical wiring, Langford said. He also said it quickly became clear that the lack of any working smoke detectors turned the fire deadly.

"Because of where it started, (on the rear porch of a rear building), if they had at least one smoke detector, they would have woken up and walked out the front door," Langford said. "They could have grabbed everyone and made it out a stairway and outside (because) they had a clear shot at the front door."

Investigators believe some of the kids who were killed in the fire were at the home for a sleepover, he said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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