CHICAGO – child welfare officials are investigating “allegations of neglect” after nine children were killed and another was left critically injured in an apartment fire in Chicago, a state agency said Tuesday.
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services spokeswoman Alissandra Calderon declined the details of the focus of the research or explain the alleged neglect. But one question still unanswered is why there are no adults in the south-West Side apartment as the fire swept through the before sunrise on Sunday.
Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said Monday that after initially believing that two of the victims were adults, researchers have established that all of them were minors, ranging in age from three months to teenagers. Nine died and a 14-year-old boy remained in critical condition Tuesday.
In an e-mail to The Associated Press, Calderon said Tuesday that several families were affected by the fire, and that the agency has in the past relationships with three of them. She said that there is no current DCFS investigations in which these families at the time of the fire.
Langford said that the investigation has revealed that the 10 boy attending a sleepover in the house were apparently overcome by smoke as she slept and never even woke up to flee the fire that killed them.
“Where the bodies were, there is a big chance… that they were overcome by the smoke,” said Larry Langford. “We couldn’t find anyone who looked like they were trying to get out the door.”
There was even one working smoke alarm in the building, the victims could have simply walked out the front door to safety.
The cause of the deadliest residential fires in the city in more than a decade, remained under investigation.
Langford said investigators determined that the fire started on a porch and have ruled out electrical wiring issues as a cause. After learning that children had set off fireworks from the porch and that people who smoked cigarettes are there, they are performing a “social investigation” to determine what activities have occurred on the porch for the fire.
But the investigation is hampered by a lack of witnesses. Eight of the victims died on Sunday, a ninth died on Monday and the surviving teenager was too badly injured to be interviewed. Langford said Monday that no one else in the apartment at the time of the fire.