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Fatal Fire Prompts Donations For Survivors

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A young man delivers a donation Sunday for the survivors of a fatal fire in Pilsen. (CBS)

A young man delivers a donation Sunday for the survivors of a fatal fire in Pilsen. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — One day after a fire killed a 3-year-old Chicago boy and injured his father and sister, the donations poured in from neighbors and strangers.

People trying to ease the family’s pain drove up and left clothes, appliances and other gifts on the sidewalk across the street from where a fire killed Michael Cruz Jr. and left his father and sister in the hospital.

Yolanda Lopez, Michael’s grandmother, says 20 family members lived in the Pilsen building in three different apartments. Now the building on Cullerton Avenue is destroyed.  They have no insurance, and they’ve lost a happy little boy.

“To me, it’s not real that he’s not with us no more,” Lopez told CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov on Sunday.

wbbm 1107 cruz Fatal Fire Prompts Donations For Survivors

Michael Cruz Jr. (left) died in a Saturday fire in Pilsen. His father, Michael Sr., was hospitalized. (Family Photo)

Lopez believes the late-afternoon fire was caused by a second-floor heater. In seconds, the building was in flames and Michael Cruz Sr. and his son couldn’t get out. Lopez said she was told when firefighters found her son he was not breathing but he was resuscitated. Her grandson was not so fortunate.

The impromptu curbside donations Sunday don’t even begin to show this community’s outreach.

In just one day, Tina Iturralde, Ald. Danny Solis and other neighbors helped collect donations that now fill two rooms of a Park District field house.

“It’s amazing. I’m so proud of the Pilsen community,” Iturralde said.

Iturralde says so many people donated items that they have too much.  So, they’ll now give the extra clothes to area women’s shelters and other places in need.

Investigators are still looking into the cause of the fire. The elder Cruz and his 14-month-old daughter are expected to recover. Cruz Sr. has not been told his young son is dead.

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