Fire officials are investigating whether a space heater caused a deadly blaze that killed a young mother and her four daughters Wednesday in Des Plaines.
The Des Plaines Fire Department said a preliminary investigation found the fire originated at the top of the stairs leading to a second-floor unit of the duplex home, starting at the only entry and exit to the unit.
"Based on the location of the fire, it likely prevented the family from being able to escape," the fire department said in a release, noting that there were no smoke detectors on the second floor, where the family was found.
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Officials are still working to determine if and how the heater could have ignited the fire, but they said there have been no signs of anything suspicious or foul play.
The blaze sparked around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at a home in the 700 block of West Oakton, just east of Elmhurst Road, according to the Des Plaines Fire Department.
According to the Cook County, Illinois, Medical Examiner's office, the children who died were ages 6, 5, 3 and 1. Their 25-year-old mother was also killed.
The victims were later identified as:
- Citlaly Zamudio, 25
- Renata P. Espinosa, 6
- Genesis A. Espinosa, 5
- Allizon V. Espinosa, 3
- Grace Espinosa, 1
A firefighter was also injured while battling the blaze, authorities said.
According to the fire department, the property is 104 years old and is divided into multi-family units, a move that was only allowed because the home was “grandfathered” in when it was annexed into the city in 1973.
The department said such homes are common in many older suburban communities and the property was registered as rental property.
"The property has a long history of property maintenance code enforcement violations, as the result of resident and neighbor complaints," the fire department said in a release. "For example, illegal burning, unregistered vehicles and debris. There is currently an active code enforcement case pending."
The city does not, however, have any building code violations pending, which would refer to construction or building occupancy issue, and it has not received complaints regarding potential violations for the interior of the property, the fire department said. The property was last inspected in 2018, at which time it had the required amount of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, authorities said.
An investigation into the fire remains ongoing.