Alicia Myles, 25, tried to get back in to save her two other children -- 3-year-old Destiny Myles and 1-year-old Jeremiah Myles -- but the door to the building had locked behind them. Neither she nor others who came to help could get into the Concordia Place apartment complex in the 300-block of East 130th Street in time to rescue the other two children.
"I tried but couldn't get in. . . and I kicked it off the hinges but we couldn't go. The blaze was just, oh, my God," Gwen Hoskins said.
"We tried to go around the back. We busted the windows out with a fire extinguisher, but the smoke just rushed out. So, there was no way we could go in," said Leotis Broughton.
Two men -- a Chicago police sergeant and a tow truck driver who were nearby when the fire broke out at 3 a.m. -- also tried to help. They were treated and released. The children's mother remains hospitalized for observation.
The way the apartment complex is set up may have hampered firefighters. It has only one entrance and is surrounded by speed bumps. The unit is half a mile and more than a dozen speed bumps from the building's entrance.
"It's a little difficult getting back here. It's a long ride around because there is only one way in, and this happened to be the last apartment in the complex. So, the speed bumps and the way the complex is laid out, it lengthens your response time to get to this area," Chicago Fire Department Dist. Chief Bob McKee said.
"It's a hazard. You know, if you only got one way in here, and the emergency vehicles to this building, to come to this building got to go all the way around, and they got to go over multiple speed bumps as you know, because you went over them," Sandra Watson said.
"There needs to be something more equipped, you know, for emergencies... because I truly believe that if the fire department could have gotten in that gate, it would have saved those children. It would have saved those children. I don't believe there was a reason for those kids to die," Yolanda Walker said.
A City of Chicago spokeswoman said the city will look into the plan and see if the city-approved plan was adhered to or if there was anything out of the ordinary. She said the Chicago Fire Department is also looking at the layout of the complex to determine if there's a better way to respond to emergencies.