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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in investigating accusations of neglect, for the family that lived in the Far South Side apartment where a fire broke out early Tuesday and killed two children.
DCFS confirms it is investigating neglect allegations against the mother whose two children – Destiny Myles, 3, and her brother, Jeremiah, 18 months – in the fire at 319 E. 130th St.
DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said the agency has had previous contact with the family.
The investigations have been for three alleged incidents, including one of neglect by the mother, and two of abuse at the hands of two different boyfriends. One of the abuse investigations happened in 2006 and 2007, the other in 2008 and 2009, Marlowe said.
Marlowe also confirmed that DCFS has provided services to the family in the past, but could not reveal details.
With regard to the cause of the fire, investigators are looking into whether the oldest boy was trying to heat up a pizza box that ended up catching fire.
The smoke detector awoke the children’s mother when the fire broke out, and she was able to escape with the 6-year-old. But the door slammed shut behind her before she could get to Jeremiah and Destiny.
Alicia’s cousin, Leotis Broughton, ran to the scene from his home nearby.
“I heard screaming outside, so I went outside – went into the back – and I saw it was my cousin’s house,” Broughton said, “so I go to the door and try to get in, then the flames start coming out more.”
A police officer came to the scene soon afterward and tried to break into the building and knock down the door with Broughton. But their efforts were to no avail.
A tow truck driver who happened to be passing by also tried to force entry.
The door eventually came down. But once the group got inside, they were faced with a wall of flames, and they couldn’t reach the two young children.
Once firefighters got inside, firefighters found Destiny on the floor and Jeremiah in his crib. Neither showed signs of life.
The mother was also injured and taken to Roseland Community Hospital, where she was reported in serious, but stable, condition, authorities said.
The police officer and the tow truck driver who tried to rescue the children were also hospitalized. They suffered smoke inhalation, and the officer also suffered a shoulder injury.
The older boy, Curnet Brewer, was not injured.
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said he will try to get entrances reopened around the apartment complex to allow for quicker access in emergencies.
The Fire Department was delayed in arriving at the scene, because access to the building from 130th Street was blocked off years ago. The building is located at the intersection with Daniel Drive, an obscure street east of Indiana Avenue.
There are few roads that run through the remote area, and rescue teams had to drive more than half a mile around the building to get to the fire.
It took a CBS 2 news crew nearly four minutes to drive to the back of the apartment complex, crossing 12 speed bumps along the way.
But fire officials have said they don’t know if the few extra minutes it took firefighters to reach the scene would have made a difference.
Even so, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said he will try to get entrances reopened around the apartment complex to allow for quicker access in emergencies.