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  1. #1
    Pedro56's Avatar
    Pedro56 is offline Englewood Ranger/Infidel Extraordinaire
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    Smoke Detectors Work

    6 children killed in N. Side fire

    September 3, 2006

    BY SHAMUS TOOMEY Staff Reporter

    Six children ranging in age from 3 to 16 died early today after fire and smoke rushed through their Far North Side apartment as heroic neighbors and firefighters fought to save them.

    The residence had no electricity and the family had been burning candles for light, fire officials said.

    "A candle in the front hallway appears to have started the fire, but that's only a preliminary finding," Chicago Fire Commissioner Raymond Orozco said this morning.

    There were no working smoke detectors in the three-bedroom apartment at 7706 N. Marshfield Ave.

    Five of the six apparently were siblings.

    Rosario Fordley, a nursing supervisor at Thorek Memorial Hospital, said the 40-year-old mother and a 3-month-old girl were discharged after being treated for smoke inhalation. Two other children were at other hospitals and their conditions were not immediately released.

    A friend of one of the Ramirez children said their mother originally was from Mexico, but the family had been in the United States for at least 16 years.

    The dead children were identified as:

    Kevin Ramirez, 3, who was pronounced dead at Weiss Memorial Hospital at 1:35 a.m.

    Idaly Ramirez, a 6-year-old girl pronounced dead at 1:27 a.m. at Swedish Covenant Hospital.

    Suzette Ramirez, 10, who was pronounced dead at 1:05 a.m. at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston.

    Eric Ramirez, 12, who was pronounced dead at 1:25 a.m. at St. Francis Hospital.

    Vanessa Ramirez, 14, who died after being transported to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. She was pronounced dead at 5:18 a.m.

    Escarlet Ramos, 3, who was pronounced dead at 1:27 a.m. at Swedish Covenant. Friends said Ramos was being baby-sat at the house.

    An autopsy conducted Sunday determined Kevin, Suzette, Eric, Idaly and Escarlet died from carbon monoxide intoxication and the inhalation of smoke and soot, according to a report from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. Vanessa died of inhalation and thermal burns, the report stated.

    Natali Ramirez, 16, was in critical condition at University of Chicago Hospitals, friends of the family said.

    The Ramirez’s oldest daughter, Delia, was 19 and was not living at home. Another teenager, Yadira, 17, was not home during the fire, friends said.


    It was 'unreal'

    "What do you say?" said a stunned Orozco, who was at the scene. "There's nothing you can say. It's been the worst in a long time. The only thing you can do is just pray for these poor people."

    The fire broke out about 12:20 a.m. in a third-floor apartment in the large, red brick apartment building in the often-troubled pocket of Rogers Park that extends north of Howard Street.

    The apartment had been without electricity for at least a month and the family had been using candles, according to fire spokesman Larry Langford.

    Neighbors said the family had been without power for months and had, until the landlord stopped them, been running extension cords into the apartment from the hallway.

    Other neighbors said they had rebuffed the family's request to run extension cords from their units.

    Myron Hall, 27, was asleep in the second-floor apartment directly beneath the blaze when his girlfriend smelled smoke and woke him up. Hall said an outlet in his apartment had sparked badly several months ago when his bed knocked against it, and he figured the same thing was happening.

    Then he heard noises upstairs.

    "I heard stomping, real loud," Hall said. "People screaming, stomping. I said it must be upstairs."

    Just then, a father from the neighborhood kicked down Hall's door, searching for children. Hall told him the fire was upstairs. That man rushed up and quickly returned with a young boy in his arms from the burning apartment, Hall said.

    "He was unreal," Hall said of the man, whom he couldn't fully identify.

    Both Hall and the man rushed up the stairs, but had to stop at the third-floor landing because of the thick smoke. "You couldn't see your hand," Hall said.

    Hall told the man to take the young boy outside. As he did, more neighbors rushed up the stairs. Hall warned them not to go any higher, and they instead went through Hall's apartment to the back of the building, he said.

    They went up the back stairs to the third-floor back porch landing, and found the mother of the kids. She was cradling a young baby and "freaking out," Hall said.

    "We asked her, 'How many kids are in the house?' " he said. "She kept saying, 'Eight! Eight!' She kept saying, 'My kids! My kids!' She kept pointing at the door, because she couldn't speak English."

    Hall said he couldn't figure out why the mother was outside the door, which neighbors were trying to break down.

    "There were all types of neighbors with fire extinguishers, but you couldn't get past the door," he said. "The door wouldn't open. We were kicking the door. . . . People were trying to get in, but there was nothing you could do."

    The group of neighbors finally kicked it in, but were driven back by the searing heat and flames.

    Meanwhile, in the front of the building, which sits at the corner of Jonquil Terrace and Marshfield Avenue, other neighbors saw kids in the window.

    'Please help us!'

    Marc Barksdale, 31, was one of the neighbors who saw the children. Barksdale was in another part of the large apartment building and was about to doze off when the fire broke out. He grabbed his 7-month-old son Jaermel and a large blanket, and went outside. Once outside, Barksdale saw several children in the window of the burning apartment.

    Barksdale handed his son to a neighbor and assembled a group of men to hold the blanket, hoping the children would jump the approximately 30 feet to the ground.

    "They were just saying, 'Please help us! Somebody help us! Somebody do something,' " Barksdale said.

    Neighbor Henry Hawk, 32, said he saw a girl in the window.

    "I don't understand Spanish, but you could see she was very scared," Hawk said.

    "Terrified," said Hawk's cousin, Ebony Hawk, 24, who also saw the girl.

    As rescue crews began arriving, they warned against jumping and lifted a ladder to the window.

    The fire department got the first call of the blaze at 12:19 a.m. and first responding crews were at the scene in three minutes, Langford said.

    When firefighters first arrived they saw one child at a third-floor window, Langford said. Truck 25 extended its main ladder with a firefighter at the tip and rescued that child, he said. That child appeared to be one of the survivors from the blaze.

    At the same time, the primary search team went in through the front door of the building and quickly found five children together in the front area of the apartment, Langford added.

    Neighbors said firefighters carried the children out of the apartment building and laid them out in a makeshift triage on the sidewalk in front of the Stephen F. Gale Academy, the neighborhood elementary school.

    Kept to themselves

    "When they came running past with the kids, tears started trickling out of my eyes, because you could see their bodies were lifeless," said Hawk, who is also a resident of the apartment building.

    Paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the children outside of the school before they were taken away by ambulance. Neighbors said the father of the children was not home at the time of the blaze, but arrived after the rescue efforts had ended.

    The blaze appears to have been contained to one apartment in the building, said Langford.

    An EMS Plan 2 response and a 3-11 alarm were called for the blaze. The blaze was struck out at 1:27 a.m., fire spokesman Will Knight said.

    Neighbors did not seem to know the family well. One neighbor said they were loud, and there were efforts to get them thrown out. Others said they saw them in the neighborhood or on the porch and they kept to themselves.

    "I see them on the back porch playing," Hawk said. "Nice family, keep to themselves. Don't bother nobody. Kids just playing."

    Hours after the fire, Barksdale cradled his sleeping son against a nearby wall, covered in the same blanket he tried to get the other children to leap into, and reflected on the tragedy.

    "I can't even describe it," he said. "It was like something you only thought you'd see in a movie -- but it was real today."

    Contributing: wires

    stoomey@suntimes.com
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  2. #2
    bird1's Avatar
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