Baby girl dies in Austin fire

June 20, 2011 9:21:15 AM PDT
Fire raced through a West Side home Monday, killing a 6-week-old girl who family members identify as Tiniya Coleman.

The fire broke out at approximately 2 a.m. in the 800-block of North Laramie in the Austin neighborhood. Flames also spread to a neighboring home before crews could extinguish them.

The house was boarded up by late Monday morning, leaving several family members without a home.

According to fire officials, their response to the early-morning fire was quick, but still, crews discovered the baby girl on a full-size bed inside a first-floor bedroom where she was sleeping, and the door was closed.

"Born on Mother's Day, she was a gift to me," mother Ashley Shields told ABC7 Chicago. "Yeah, 4:32 in the morning. That was my baby."

The little girl family members called "Chubby Cheeks" died the day after Father's Day.

"A happy-go-lucky little baby. Always smiling at people, laughing. She was even trying to talk," the mother said. "She don't cry. She just sat there and laugh with you, smile at you and everything."

Several adults and other children lived in the home and were able to make it out safely. Coleman's mother and her family members say, despite efforts, they could not save the baby girl.

"When she [the mother] came out, she came out screaming. Me and another lady went in, and fire was coming out of the door," relative Tyronisha King said.

Firefighters say there were no working smoke detectors in the home. Monday morning, they passed out free smoke detectors in the Austin neighborhood. Fire officials say anyone who cannot afford a smoke detector can go to a local fire station and get one for free.

In this case, firefighters say a working smoke detector could have saved a baby's life.

"We tried to get her out of the room, but by the time we got to the room, the room was just all flames, and we couldn't do anything about it," Shields said.

"Didn't get a chance to live even half of her life, it's sad. It's devastating," said King.

Firefighters also said they did not know what caused the fire, but they said it started in the mattress where they baby was sleeping.

Some family members said they believed the fire started because of a bad electrical outlet, but fire investigators have not confirmed that.

The American Red Cross is helping family the five adults and at least three children who lived in the home to find a temporary place to live.

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