Girl, 5, Dies in Waukegan Fire

Daniela Martinez was a kindergartner at Whittier Elementary School

Daniela Martinez’s father tried to find the 5-year-old after smoke from a basement fire filled their Waukegan home Friday.

And when two firefighters found her hiding in a downstairs bathroom, they began performing CPR immediately.

But these efforts were in vain. The Whittier Elementary School kindergartner died from smoke inhalation.

The fire was reportedly ignited in a laundry basket full of linens near the girl, who was playing with matches or a lighter, Waukegan Fire Marshall Steve Lenzi said.

It took fire fighters at least ten minutes to find Daniela in the smoke-filed labyrinth-like basement, authorities said.

“This was a fire that produced copious amounts of smoke -- there was so much smoke that the fire almost smothered itself,” said Waukegan Fire Chief Dan Young.

Daniela suffered burns around her feet, indicating that she might have tried to escape at some point, authorities said.

According to Lenzi, an investigation of the residence revealed that there was one smoke detector in the basement that had a missing battery. Young said there were no smoke detectors were located on the main floor.

“It’s a real tragedy,” Lenzi said, imploring parents to make sure their smoke detectors work. “There were some adults in the home and a working smoke detector probably could have prevented this.”

Young said that the single-family residence, in the in the 1500 block of Jenkinson Court, was a rental unit that appeared to have “multiple sleeping areas in the basement, as well on the first floor, with locked doors.”

Ten people were displaced due to the fire.

On Friday, Daniela’s mother, Maria Martinez, stood silently on the front sidewalk and spoke with investigators.

She was comforted by her 11-year-old son, Christian, and family friend,

Nely Borohona, who said Daniela had lived in the house about three months and loved watching “Dora the Explorer.”

Friday’s tragedy was the first fire fatality in Waukegan since May 2010, when a man set fire to his home on the 400 block of Julian Street in an apparent suicide.

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