Three Children Killed In House Fire

2-, 3-year-olds and 7-month-old perish in South Chicago

There were no working smoke detectors in a Southeast Side home where three children died in a house fire this morning, authorities said.

The alarm was called about 10:40 a.m. at a three-story home in the South Chicago neighborhood, according to Fire Media Affairs Asst. Director Eve Rodriguez.  The fire began on the third floor of the home at 8338 S. Buffalo Ave. and spread to attic and roof of the building next door, she said. 

The top-floor apartment was fully engulfed in flames when crews arrived at the scene.

"I heard 'Help, help, help,'" witness Marland Maclin said.

Sharon Lockhart, the sister of the children’s father, identified the dead as Jimmy Gates, 7 months old; Tyrell Gates, 2; and Sherell Gates, 3. Lockhart identified the mother as Danail Cheatem. Authorities did not confirm the names.  A 4-year-old was rescued by firefighters and taken in stable condition to the University of Chicago Comer's Children's Hospital.

"Nobody knows what happened.  They tried to get in and get them, but they couldn't," said Josette Wardell, a friend of the family.

The children's mother was home at the time, but was unable to reach her children in another part of the apartment.  The father was not living at the home, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Firefighters found a smoke detector on the second floor, but the device was not working. There were no other smoke detectors found in the home, Fire Commissioner John W. Brooks said.  Firefighters spent part of the afternoon canvassing the neighborhood to hand out smoke detectors.

The fire was extinguished about 11:25 a.m.  The cause has not yet been determined, but investigators said matches or the improper use of a space heater may be to blame.

Wednesday's fire comes on the heels of a fire that claimed the lives of two young sisters a few days before Christmas.  The siblings were left home alone while their mother was allegedly at a pool hall with a friend during the fire.  The mother has been charged with child endangerment in connection with the deaths.  [Read More...]

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