CFD: Burning candle led to Little Village fire

December 24, 2009 (CHICAGO) The girls- Mariana, 11 months, and Gabriela, 2 years- were taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition from smoke inhalation. One of them is improving, hospital officials said.

Police said the girls were alone when the fire broke out at the home around 8 a.m. in the 2800-block of South Sawyer. The Chicago Fire Department blame the blaze on a lit candle in the bedroom.

The girls' father, David Pasteles, told a newspaper he and his wife were out Christmas shopping- but they had left their 13-year-old son at home to watch the toddlers.

Neighbors said the girls' mother arrived as smoke was pouring out of the family's second floor unit. The 13-year-old son was also outside.

"Some lady asked me what was going on? I'm like the house on the top is on fire. I thought she was just a spectator. Then I seen her really panic and she started crying screaming her kids were in there," said Juan Guerrero, neighbor.

"The two little girls were alone in the house," said downstairs neighbor Juana Tapia. "The daddy and the mom came in the apartment saying 'Oh! My two little girls are alone in my house!" When asked if the couple leaves the toddlers home alone frequently, Tapia said "yeah."

The girls had to be rescued by firefighters.

"As they got upstairs to the second floor, they found one of the children real quick and got him out. The second company arriving, got the other child and they got them both downstairs. Ambulances were requested on the scene. And then shortly after that, doing another search, we had a fireman who injured his hand," said District Chief Sylvester Knox, Chicago Fire Department.

The fireman hurt his hand, but the injury is minor, according to officials.

The girls were transported to the hospital.

"I don't know if they're OK, they were little girls. I hope they be better," said neighbor Anaid Cudno.

Tapia's family has been displaced and will spend Christmas Eve with relatives.

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