1-year-old girl killed, 8 injured in West Lawn fire

Samantha Modesto died of smoke inhalation, police said. A 2-year-old girl and a 5-month-old are hospitalized in critical condition.

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An attic fire led to the death of a 1-year-old girl and hospitalized eight other people.

An attic fire led to the death of a 1-year-old girl and hospitalized eight other people.

Provided

A 1-year-old girl died and eight others — including an infant and another toddler — were injured when a fire swept through the attic of a Southwest Side house early Wednesday.

The fire started about midnight in the attic of a brick bungalow in the 6000 block of South Kenneth Avenue in the West Lawn neighborhood, authorities said. The girl suffered smoke inhalation and died at the scene, fire officials said. She was identified Wednesday afternoon as Samantha Modesto by the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

A 5-month-old and a 2-year-old were in critical condition, as were a 31-year-old man and a 22-year-old woman. Four other people — ages 12, 14, 28 and 40 — were taken to the hospital in good condition and later released, officials said.

All eight were initially taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. The 2-year-old girl was transferred to Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, and the two adults in critical condition were taken to Stroger Hospital.

The fire appeared to be accidental, police said. The Chicago Fire Department’s Office of Fire Investigations will investigate.

Leslie Ortega, 23, a next-door neighbor, was looking at her cellphone as she tried to fall asleep when she heard a whooshing sound like a stove igniting. “I peeked out my window, which faces the street, and saw flames in the reflection of a car window,” said Ortega, who called 911.

Her sister, Angeles Ortega, 36, said moments later she saw a young man standing outside the home who was repeating the words “las niñas” — which is Spanish for “the girls.”

The man was vomiting and appeared to be in shock, Angeles Ortega said. A firefighter cradling a very young girl in his arms rushed out the front door of the burning home, she said.

“Everything else was a blur. I kept hearing screaming and yelling. People rushing,” recalled Leslie Ortega, who said she didn’t sleep last night. She unplugged nearly every electrical device in her house out of instinct — that she recognizes might be irrational — to prevent a fire in her own home.

“When I learned on Facebook that a little girl had died I started shaking. My mom began crying,” Leslie Ortega said.

The Ortega sisters said they didn’t know their neighbors well but regularly exchanged pleasantries — and their dogs were pals. The Ortegas are looking after their neighbors’ German shepherd, Luna.

Fire officials said the owner of the home lived on the first floor and his brother lived in the second floor attic space.

The attic space had not been approved for occupancy by the city, according to Deputy District Fire Chief Joseph Rispoli.

There were working smoke detectors on the first floor but there were not any on the second floor, Rispoli said. 

On Wednesday morning, a group of firefighters knocked on doors in the neighborhood and handed out smoke detectors along with fire safety flyers.

A toddler was killed and eight people were injured in a fire March 4, 2020, in the 6000 block of South Kenneth Avenue.

A toddler was killed and eight people were injured in a fire March 4, 2020, in the 6000 block of South Kenneth Avenue.

Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

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