Girl, 4, dies in Gage Park fire during sleepover, family says; 9 others displaced

Chicago firefighter suffered minor injuries

Diane Pathieu Image
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Girl, 4, dies in Gage Park fire during sleepover, family says; 9 others displaced
A 4-year-old girl attending a sleepover was killed when a fire broke in the Gage Park neighborhood on Chicago's Southwest Side, her family said.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A 4-year-old girl who was pulled from a fire in the Gage Park neighborhood on Chicago's Southwest Side has died, police said.

The girl, identified as J'Marie Hernandez by her family, was having a sleepover at her cousin's house in the 5700-block of South Washtenaw Avenue and fell asleep watching TV, her uncle, Edgar Garcia, told ABC7. When the fire broke out, the family was able to make it out of the house safely, but didn't realize the 4-year-old was still inside.

Family members ran back into the home to rescue her, but couldn't get to her in time. The girl's aunt suffered burns to her hand while trying to reach her, her uncle said.

"I know my sister burned her hands trying to open the door, trying to take her out," Garcia said. "My oldest nephew tried to break the window, but it was too hard."

The Chicago Fire Department found the child unresponsive in the first-floor bedroom around 4:17 a.m, police said. She was transported to Holy Cross Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

"She was the center of a lot of us; she liked to dance, play," Garcia said. "This is going to be a lot of pain for us for a little while."

Hernandez was her parents' only daughter. She leaves them and three brothers behind.

"They cannot believe it. We think it's a nightmare, which it's not," Garcia said.

Police said nine other people were inside the home at the time of the fire, including another cousin and six other children. But no one else was injured.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries and is expected to recover.

The home is uninhabitable and the other occupants have found other shelter.

Family members said the girl's grandfather, who owns the home, was recently released after spending three weeks in the hospital recovering from COVID-19.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, police said.

Chicago firefighters went door-to-door in the neighborhood later Wednesday, handing out smoke detectors.