7-month-old, 2-year-old dead in West Woodlawn fire; 6-year-old critically injured

A "fast-spreading" fire in a West Woodlawn basement on Saturday left a 7-month-old and a 2-year-old girl dead, a 6-year-old boy critically hurt, and three other people injured including a Chicago firefighter.The blaze began in the basement of a...

7-month-old, 2-year-old dead in West Woodlawn fire; 6-year-old critically injured

A "fast-spreading" fire in a West Woodlawn basement on Saturday left a 7-month-old and a 2-year-old girl dead, a 6-year-old boy critically hurt, and three other people injured including a Chicago firefighter.

The blaze began in the basement of a graystone in the 6600 block of South Champlain Avenue, where a stove had been turned on for heat, a law enforcement source said. No foul play is suspected.

About 10:30 p.m. Saturday, crews responded to the house after receiving reports of a fire in the basement with people trapped inside, Deputy District Chief Mike Carbone said at the scene.

“Companies made an aggressive attack, trying to knock that fire down and make a simultaneous search for any victims that were in there,” he said.

The blaze had quickly spread to the floor above, and firefighters went in “under very heavy fire conditions,” said Carbone, who described the blaze as "fast-spreading."

Neighbors heard screaming and came out to see the building enveloped in an enormous, fast-moving blaze.

“I heard somebody hollering real loud,” said Taneisha Grayson, 27, who lives across the street. “As I was coming to the corner, I heard everyone say there was babies in there.”

A few neighbors tried to get inside and investigate, but the flames were too intense, Grayson said.

Fire crews arrived and a 6-year-old boy was rescued from the house. He was taken to Comer Children’s Hospital in critical condition.

ct-fatal-fire-kills-children-met-0227 Justin Jackson/ for the Chicago Tribune

An injured Chicago firefighter is taken to an ambulance at the scene of a fatal fire in the 6600 block of South Champlain Avenue in Chicago on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. Two girls, a 7-month-old, Ziya Grace, and a 2-year-old, Jamaii Grace, were found dead in the basement of the home.

An injured Chicago firefighter is taken to an ambulance at the scene of a fatal fire in the 6600 block of South Champlain Avenue in Chicago on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. Two girls, a 7-month-old, Ziya Grace, and a 2-year-old, Jamaii Grace, were found dead in the basement of the home.

(Justin Jackson/ for the Chicago Tribune)

Grayson saw the boy's mother collapse to the ground, distraught, she said.

“She saw in the ambulance, and her baby was all burned up,” Grayson said, waving her hand up and down her torso to show where the boy had been hurt.

Neighbors found some clothes and a blanket for the mother, who had rushed outside unprepared for the cold weather. She wasn’t allowed in the ambulance with her son, Grayson said, so Grayson gave her a ride to Comer, then came back to the corner of 67th and Champlain.

An hour after the fire, watching crews search the house through broken windows, there were tears on Grayson’s face.

“As I approached and they said there was babies in there, I just lost it,” she recalled.

When the fire was put out, firefighters found two young girls in the basement: 7-month-old Ziya Grace and 2-year-old Jamaii Grace, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. They were pronounced dead on the scene.

Two women ages 48 and 25 also were injured and taken to University of Chicago Medical Center.

Fire, 6600 block of South Champlain Avenue Megan Crepeau / Chicago Tribune

Investigators search a building in the 6600 block of South Champlain Avenue after a fire that killed two young girls and hospitalized four other people including a 6-year-old boy and a firefighter. The fire began about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.

Investigators search a building in the 6600 block of South Champlain Avenue after a fire that killed two young girls and hospitalized four other people including a 6-year-old boy and a firefighter. The fire began about 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017.

(Megan Crepeau / Chicago Tribune)

One firefighter was injured in the course of the response. He was taken to an area hospital in fair-to-serious condition. Information about the nature of his injuries was not immediately available.

No smoke detectors were found in the basement, officials said.

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