Three children, including a 7-month-old, died in the fire at their home in the 600 block of Sibley Street, according to the Lake County, Ind. Coroner's office.
The Hammond Fire Department received a 911 call reporting the fire at about 10:20 p.m. Wednesday. Hammond Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Margraf said a space heater was the likely cause of the fire.
Margraf said that the father, badly burned, was lying in the street when firefighters arrived. It appeared he had pulled two of the children to safety.
The three children who died were all found in the downstairs front room, he said.
Fire crews had difficulty getting into the house because two doors were partially blocked by what appears to be furniture. Margraf did confirm the lower apartment did not have electricity and that it looks like the fire was an accident caused by a heater.
He said the mother was not at home at the time but at some point was across the street in shock.
"Unfortunately I see too many of these," he said of fires caused by heaters.
Jayden Young, a 7-month-old boy, suffered burns to the body and was pronounced dead at 12:15 a.m., authorities said.
Alexia Young, a 3-year-old girl, also suffered burns and was pronounced dead at 12:16 a.m., according to the coroner's office. Dasani Young, a 4-year-old boy, was burned and pronounced dead one minute later.
After suffering burns in the fire, Andre Young, 27, was taken in critical condition along with his two sons, ages 2 and 6, to Stroger Hospital in Chicago, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The two boys were released from the hospital Saturday evening in good condition, according to the spokeswoman. Young was still in critical condition in the Cook County Burn Unit.
Margraf said he had heard the two injured children were talking, which is a good sign.
Jasmin Rice, who lives in the upstairs apartment with her significant other and three children, said they first smelled the smoke and thought perhaps it was from something they left on. However, they then heard someone yell there was a fire.
"His first instinct was to grab the kids," Rice said of her boyfriend.
He grabbed the children, one of who was wearing only a T-shirt, and got them out while she tried to find their keys.
As they ran for safety, they saw Young run out of the downstairs apartment.
"He was on fire," she said.
Her boyfriend started trying to knock down the front door, but as soon as he did, flames came shooting out.
"The smoke, the flames, everything happened so fast," Rice said.
Gar Liptack, who lives across the street, said the fire came on fast.
"The light is what caught my eye," Liptack said.
When he came outside to see what was going on, fire and police officials were already there and wouldn't let him come out.
Another neighbor, Nicki Flick, said she was already asleep when the fire started but that she heard her husband cry out that there was a fire. Flick said they couldn't see the family but that flames consumed the front of the house.
She said the family had lived there at least since last spring but that as early as last summer they were living without electricity. Flick had heard a noise coming from the house and when she asked, the mother said the noise was a generator they were using because they didn't have money for electricity.
"She said, well it's better than not having any lights," Flick said.
The family was very friendly, she said, and she would often see several of the children playing outside, always with at least one of the parents with them. When some of the children thought they saw their dad coming home one time, they ran toward the vehicle yelling "daddy, daddy," Flick said.
"He loved all those kids," she said.
Liptack said he would wave to the family when he saw them, including just yesterday when they were out walking the baby in a stroller, and that he had shoveled their drive earlier this week.
"I can't imagine," he said.
The Indiana State Fire Marshal's office is investigating, along with Hammond police and fire officials.
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