3 Young Children Die In Englewood Fire

UPDATED 04/07/11 10:15 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Three young children — ages 2, 4 and 9 — were killed early Thursday in a fire in the Englewood neighborhood.

The fire broke out around 2:15 a.m., on the first and second floors of the 2-1/2 story frame building at 6758 S. Emerald Ave.

Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford confirmed that a child playing with a lighter was to blame.

A tiny spark set off by the little fingers of a child spread quickly in the bunk in which he lay. Authorities say the parents tried dousing the fire with pots and pans filled with water, but the flames raged out of control.

“I tried to put the fire out. I realized it wasn’t going to go out,” father Stacey Austin told CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman. “So I’m like, let’s get the kids out of here, and I thought I had all my children out, but I didn’t.”

One child, a 2-year-old girl naamed Dashiyah, was found dead on the first floor and was pronounced dead at the scene, Fire Media Affairs spokesman Richard Rosado said. Two others, — Stacey Jr., 9, and 4-year-old Joseph — were taken to the hospital where they later died, officials said.  The children died from smoke inhalation, Langford said.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Bernie Tafoya reports

Austin told the Sun-Times Media Wire he saw one of his sons playing with a lighter. His 10 children were all in the home when the fire started.

“There were so many of them, 10 of them,” said the children’s mother, Samantha Sims, crying. “I tried so hard to take care of them.”

Marcella Harper, a witness who lives across the street, said she first heard banging, and saw the family from the first floor run out and tell the family living upstairs there was a fire. Harper says she knows the two families and can’t believe what she saw.

“It’s so tragic. You never expect to witness something like this – never,” Harper said. “I’ve met the father of one of the victims. They’re a pretty tight-knit family. They took their kids in the yard. You would always see them come out and play with their dog, or go to school.”

An emotional Sheila Dorsey, who lived upstairs, became emotional as she described attempts to rescue the children who perished.

“There was so much flame. I tried to get them out,” she told CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker.  “We tried (but) the fire, it was taking our breath away.”

She was among four adults, three children and a dog in the upstairs apartment were able to escape to safety. Julius Sutton, 35, says he was visiting when the blaze began. When the family was later allowed back into the home to retrieve their belongings, they found the family’s cat, Tigger, alive in an upstairs closet.

Two Chicago Police officers suffered from smoke inhalation while responding to the fire, police News Affairs Officer Hector Alfaro said. One was taken to Holy Cross Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries while the other was treated at the scene.

The building’s manager, Seronsa Charles, said 17 people lived on the two floors and that each apartment had five bedrooms.

Fire officials said smoke detectors were working in the house and went off. Still, following the tragedy, firefighters spent the morning passing out smoke detectors to people in the neighborhood. They canvassed a 10-block area to make sure everyone had a working smoke detector.

Efforts are under way to help the displaced survivors. An account for the Austin family has been set up at U.S. Bank.

“They’re going to need help long after today,” Rev. James Thomas says.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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  • The Truth

    Do you mean to tell me that the 4 year old was still playing with the lighter when he woke up ? He didn’t have time to get him out but instead went to get some water to douse the flames ? God bless these babys

  • dan

    Sad terrible story-feel bad for the family. Do have to ask, what is a 4yr old doing awake at 2AM and how did he get a hold of a lighter?


  • Francess

    Poor little angels. How come parents let their children up and playing with fire past midnight? They should be in bed and resting so they will be refreshed to go to school and learn. No wonder children are coming late to school and sleeping while the teachers tries as has as he could to teach. No wonder the schools are closing down because chidren are not sleeping well or eating appropiately. Please, parents let the children sleep early and give them a good breakfast so they will learn more at school and not die in the middle of the night.
    May God receive this poor souls into His kingdom.
    My condolences to all family who lost this precious children.
    God bless them all.

    • The Truth

      Francess , YOU ARE TOTALLY RIGHT !!!!! I always take the lighter away and put them to bed at midnight. IDIOT.

  • Bless the Family and Children

    Lets not blame the parent so fast. Kids do wake up through the night, How do you know where the lighter came from. Who even gave it to him. He could have had it for several hours and day, and hidden it from the adults. Most kids eat breakfast at school because the economy is so poor, they cannot afford to feed the children. So, Let us all pray to help this family get through this terrible tragedy. May the Children Angle rest in peace. May the family and friends get thru this.

  • kels~

    is there a place for us to directly donate money, toys(ages and gender), clothes (gender and sizes needed)?

  • Katie

    How can we donate to help this grieving family?

  • JeanSC

    I just heard the 10 PM News story about this fire. I didn’t catch who it was, but a man said the lesson from this fire was to have a fire extinguisher on hand. Nothing wrong with that – but why didn’t he mention the lesson about not letting children have access to fire-starting materials, such as matches and lighters? Its’ just stupid to not put this rule first. I don’t care what you have to do – parents must keep this stuff away from kids.

    • Melody

      The main thing is that three helpless children lost their lives and the rest of the siblings and family are left to grieve. Don’t make inconsiderate comments about that. A four year old child IS capable of waking while parents sleep and children do ramble !!! The baby could have easily gotten it out of a pocket or a purse, there was not report of drugs or any “wrong going ons” in the home, (just a family living). We never understand the reason as to why God allows things like this to happen, it’s not for us to understand. God had a reason and that is it, you can’t question it. No need to point accusing fingers at parents, they NEED help and support getting through this.

      • JeanSC

        I wasn’t making “inconsiderate comments.” Many fellow readers made considerate comments; I wanted to add something else. My point about anything which could start a fire is that parents must make sure children can’t access them. If they shouldn’t leave a loaded gun in a pocket or purse which isn’t locked (and the key not accessible to children), they shouldn’t, by the same token, leave matches or a lighter in a pocket or purse which isn’t locked. Don’t say it can’t be done. My own pockets are empty overnight, and I do have a backpack whose zipper can be padlocked. Your God has no place in my suggestion; I’m trying to help adults prevent future fires started by kids playing with fire-starting materials. If you don’t like my suggestion, run it by a firefighter.

  • Whodat

    Why can’t black people figure out how to get away from a fire?

    • Here's another dumb question.....

      Why can’t fools keep their mouth shut?

  • Faruq

    I want to say, first off, My Prayers go out the Family in these troubled times! May GOD continue to bless you and cover you!
    Well to ALL of the reader’s! I have actual video footage from My workplace surveillance camera. The EXACT time of the initial blaze and all! I contacted and shared this information with CPD , as well as Channel 7 News, ‘something of interest’ they might need/want to see. However, they have yet to reach out to me. But I have to say, I’m finding it VERY hard to except the determination of how the fire was started. And too agree with a lot of what some of the comments posted!

    • melody

      For Faruq
      You have video of how the fire started INSIDE the home???? If you have evidence of foul play why don’t you take it directly to the police?

  • Faruq

    To Melody!
    No not actual footage of how it started INSIDE or OUT! This just in! A CPD Detective is scheduled to come by and take a look at the footage (FINALLY)! As an Ex-Cop myself, I find discrepancies in what is said, to be started by a child (that of ESPECIALLY a 4 y.o.)!
    The initial blaze (about the size of a man door entry) erupted! And then literally in a matter of 23 seconds, the ENTIRE side of the house engulfed in an ENORMOUS burst of flames! As a past certified ‘Deputy Fire Director’, its impossible (in my eyes), for such to happen as it is on video!
    But that (alone) is not what will catch the immediate interest of CPD Investigators. Unfortunately I can’t go into further detail due to legal reasons to protect the source of the video.

    • Melody

      The main thing is that the TRUTH comes out !!!! I hope that the parents didn’t do this on purpose !!!?????? I just pray that the babies that lost their lives get justice if there is any foul play. Angels come in all forms and hopefully you’ll be able to let the TRUTH shine through if you are correct in your thinking. Bless you Faruq ……

  • Melody J Liggons

    Did anything ever become of the police coming and looking at the tape that Faruq had??

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