Four children were killed and two adults were critically injured in an extra-alarm fire early Monday in the Roseland neighborhood on the Far South Side, officials said.
The blaze began on the second floor of an 18-unit building in the 11200 block of South Vernon at 3:25 a.m., authorities said.
Four children were killed in the fire, authorities said. The Cook County medical examiner’s office could not immediately confirm the fatalities.
Two adults who jumped from the third floor of the building to escape the blaze were taken in critical condition to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, police said. The rest of the building’s residents evacuated safely, according to Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Michael Fox.
Fire officials did not confirm the adults’ relationship to the four deceased children, but neighbors on the scene said the six are a family that lived on the third floor.
Neighbors said the four children included a 6-year-old girl, a 16-year-old girl, and two boys, 12 and 13.
Darlene Jones, 31, lives on the second floor of the building where the blaze happened. She was woken and smelled smoke when her dog, Toto, started “persistently” barking. Jones opened her front door and saw flames in the apartment across the hall, which she says has been vacant for about two months. She added that she has complained to her landlord several times about “a bunch of guys” going in and out of that unit since it was abandoned.
At one point, Jones looked up the stairwell from her hallway and saw a woman–the one who later jumped–struggling to find a way off the third floor, where smoke had also become very thick. She said that woman’s unit’s back door was blocked for almost a year by a wooden slab and suspects that’s the reason she was forced to jump.
Jones and her 12-year-old daughter exited through their back door, called 911 and knocked on doors to wake other residents before taking the back stairs to the ground floor. By the time Jones got outside, the adults had already jumped from the third floor, she said.
Fire officials had made it to the scene but were not aware that children were still on the third floor, Jones said. The adults were not able to talk.
“I started screaming, ‘There are kids up there! There are kids up there!'” she said.
Nikita Carter, 17, lives next door to the building where the blaze happened and had known the four children for about two years. She used to do their hair.
“They were lovely kids,” Carter said. “The little one loved to sing. She had a beautiful voice.”
Kimberly Swift, 42, lives on the block where the fire occurred.
“This is a tragedy. This is really heartbreaking. My condolences go out to the whole family,” Swift said.
About 50 people have been displaced, police said. The Red Cross was on the scene early Monday aiding residents and handing out water.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.