CHICAGO (Reuters) ― A fire on Chicago’s West Side early Sunday morning killed eight people, including six children, and critically injured two others, a fire official said.
A passerby saw smoke at the rear of the building around 4 a.m. local time, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.
A teenager and a young adult are in critical condition with burns and smoke inhalation, Langford said, adding their prognosis was poor.
The victims’ names, ages and relationships to each other were not known, Langford said. The youngest killed was an infant.
Family members said some of the children were at the apartment for a sleepover. Marcos Contreras, 15, lost siblings and relatives in the fire.
“By the time we got here, the whole house was on fire. They were taking out my cousins, my brothers,” Contreras said. “Just knowing that the fact that I’m never gonna see them again. My brother, coming to my room, messing with me for no reason. It just ― I don’t even got words to explain the pain I’m feeling right now.”
All victims were on the second floor of the two-story brick building with an attic, Langford said. The first floor was empty and boarded up while the attic was a storage area.
Investigators are probing the fire’s origin and cause, Langford said. Officials’ preliminary observation showed the fire started on second floor, he said.
The fire was extinguished within 45 minutes, Langford said. Fifteen ambulances were on scene.
The structure was totaled and the fire’s heat was so intense that siding on buildings up to 200 feet away melted.
No smoke detectors were heard and none have been found, Langford said.
“Our death count would have definitely been lower or non-existent if working smoke detectors were in this structure,” Langford said.
(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker. HuffPost’s Hayley Miller contributed reporting.)