DES PLAINES, Ill. — Four girls under the age of 6 and a 25-year-old woman died in a fire that raged through a suburban Chicago home Wednesday morning, authorities said.
The fire started around 10:15 a.m. at a duplex building in Des Plaines, WGN-TV reported. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene, while the children died at an area hospital, the television station reported.
According to the Cook County medical examiner’s office, the victims were identified as Renata Espinosa, 6; Genesis Espinosa, 5; Allizon Espinosa, 3; Grace Espinosa, 1; and Citahaly Zamiodo, 25.
“This is a tragedy that I have not seen in my 34, 36 years of fire service. It is a sad day,” Des Plaines Fire Chief Daniel Anderson said at a news conference. “This is a terrible day … a tragic day for Des Plaines.”
“This kind of tragedy touches the heart of every Des Plaines resident,” Mayor Matt Bogusz said in the statement. “The city and the Des Plaines community grieve with this family and offer our support in any way we can.”
Pabel Marrero, 52, said he was in bed Wednesday morning when he smelled smoke, “like burned plastic,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
Marrero said he began getting dressed when he heard a loud knocking on the home’s front door, the newspaper reported. A stranger was calling 911 and yelled that people needed to evacuate.
According to Cook County records, the frame house, which is more than 100 years old, is divided into four apartments. Marrero said he lives on the first floor, and the victims lived in the upstairs apartment.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, WGN reported.
Marrero said he has lived in the building for 12 years, adding that his apartment was badly damaged, the Tribune reported. He added that while his apartment had the least damage, he could not stop thinking about the victims.
“The kids, the kids,” Marrero told the newspaper. “I am numb. The kids.”