Single mom, 2 others killed in fires

December 12, 2011 9:47:22 PM PST
Fires across the Chicago area and northwest Indiana left three people dead, including a Lake Station mother whose young children survived.

One fire also injured two children who were listed in critical condition at Comer Children's Hospital Monday afternoon.

The latest deadly fire happened late Sunday night at 83rd Street and Indiana in Chicago's Chatham neighborhood. Firefighters pulled 52-year-old Leslie Jones out of a burning apartment building. He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he later died. Smoke inhalation is the probable cause of death.

"We had a fire in the kitchen of a third-floor rear of a three-story apartment building. The company let out one line, forced entry and found a the bathroom. There were heavy smoke conditions," one unidentified Chicago firefighter told ABC7 Chicago.

Firefighters blame unattended cooking for starting the fire.

Neighbors say Jones was the building custodian.

"It's devastating to hear this happened, to know he didn't make it. I know that he was the janitor in the building and helped out, very helpful," said neighbor Jeanine Jenkins.

Weekend rescue efforts by firefighters ended tragically on Pine Grove near Diversey, as well. Theodore Walton, 85, died Sunday morning after suffering burns to his entire body during a fire that broke out Saturday night in his Lincoln Park apartment.

Walton reportedly used an electriv wheelchair and lived alone.

Firefighters say the fire was most likely caused by a cigarette or cigar.

Also on Saturday, a 29-year-old single mother was killed in a fire in Lake Station, Ind.

"I ran around the corner and pulled in the driveway. That's when I couldn't believe my eyes. I seen the flames shooting out of my windows, and I seen the smoke, and I was praying to God she wasn't in that home," said friend John Thiel.

Thiel tried to break the windows and the doors to rescue the woman and her two children, but the flames and smoke drove him back.

"I couldn't get her. I tried to get her to go through the front, but the flames were so bad, I couldn't get in there," he said.

Firefighters got the 1-year-old, Landon Teel, and 3-year-old, Andrew Collins, out, but their mother, who was indentified as Jennifer Teel, died in the fire. The boys remained in critical condition Monday evening.

"What hurts me inside -- really hurts me inside -- is she was calling my name, and I couldn't do anything to help her," Thiel said. "She was calling my name, and I couldn't get to her."

Chicago Fire Cmsr. Robert Hoff says there were a total of 10 fires in the city this weekend, and this is a season when people need to beware.

"It was a busy weekend. When the weather's cold, that's what happens. We need to remind people of fire safety throughout the year, but especially in the winter. People use space heaters in their homes because their homes are not well insulated. Space heaters are supposed to be shut off at night, but that is when you need the heat. So, people leave them on," Hoff said.

Commissioner Hoff also wants to residents people to make sure their smoke detectors are working properly. He says they should also make sure extension cords for Christmas lights are in an open area so they do not over heat.

Investigators do not know what caused the Lake Station fire.

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