CHICAGO (AP) -- Four children died in a fire on Chicago’s South Side early Monday and their mother and her boyfriend were critically injured after jumping from a third-story window to escape the blaze, the fire department said.
The children included a 5-year-old and a 15- or 16-year-old girl and two boys ages 10 and 14, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.
The blaze started about 3:30 a.m. in an 18-unit apartment building in the Roseland neighborhood. Two of the children were found in a bedroom and two were in a closet, he said. An older child was found on top of a younger child, Langford said.
“It appears one was trying to protect the other,” Langford said.
About 50 other residents escaped the fire, authorities said. One of them was Darlene Jones, 31, who lived on the second floor and said she was friendly with the family.
Jones’ terrier dog Toto woke her by barking and she opened her apartment door to the hallway to see flames and smoke, she said. Jones fled through her back door and ran up to the family’s third-floor apartment, banging on their door to wake them. She said she wondered how they would escape because their back door would stick closed.
Jones said she heard the mother screaming, “’It’s in the hall! It’s in the hall! It’s in the hall!”’
Later Jones saw the mother’s body on the ground.
“I knew those kids were gone,” Jones said.
The blaze appeared to start on the second floor, creeping up a stairwell to the third floor, Langford said. Smoke detectors in common areas were working but Langford said there was no evidence of working smoke detectors in the affected units.
Albert Miller, who lives on the second floor, said he saw two people jump from the building.
“As I was coming out the front door, two people came flying out the window. A lady and a man hit the ground,” Miller told WLS-TV, which reported that the fire was extinguished by 4:30 a.m.
The mother and her boyfriend were taken in critical condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center in nearby Oak Lawn.
None of the victims’ names has been released.