Her 8-year-old son was critically burned. Investigators think someone may have intentional set the building on fire.
It started just before 2 Saturday morning in a three-story multi-unit building near 112th and King Drive.
It began in a stairwell and spread fast.
"I looked at my front door and the front door was full of black smoke," said L'Tanya Simmons. "You couldn't see the handle, the knob, or anything."
Fire officials say the building didn't have any smoke alarms or detectors. Residents were in a panic.
"You could hear the glass upstairs cracking from the fire," resident Marques Wallace said. "It was hitting the floor. We were afraid to leave out the back banister, we didn't want glass to hit us so we left anyway. We went around and saw the apartment really on fire."
A 28-year-old woman didn't survive. She was rescued from her 3rd floor bedroom, but the fire was too intense and she later died.
Residents say her 8-year-old son, who was sleeping in another bedroom, appeared to be in bad shape, too, suffering third-degree burns.
Resident Larry Jones uses a wheelchair. Extremely frightened he rushed to get out.
"I could hardly see in front of me so, you know, a lot of smoke, I was dizzy from smoke inhalation," he said.
Later in the day, firefighters handed out smoke detectors as neighbors learned the fire may have been intentionally set.
"It's terrible," Simmons said. "Who would want to do something like this? If it was a prank, a joke, or to disrupt something, I don't know, but now someone's life has been taken. It's awful, it's terrible. I just wonder do they know the severity, of what they've done the damaged they've caused."
Investigators are now trying to determine who did this and why.
The Red Cross was on hand to help with residents that were displaced.
ABC7 has teamed up with the Chicago Fire Department for Operation Save a Life.
The program educates residents about fire-related hazards and how to avoid them.
For more information: Operation Save a Life