Woman killed, man critically injured in Humboldt Park fire ID'd

BySarah Schulte and Jade Hernandez via WLS logo
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
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A 72-year-old woman was killed and a 74-year-old man was critically injured in a fire in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A 72-year-old woman was killed and a 74-year-old man was critically injured in a fire in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood early Wednesday.

The blaze broke out at 12:50 a.m. Wednesday in the apartments above a small corner grocery store in the 1000-block of North Hamlin Avenue. When firefighters arrived, there was heavy fire on the second floor and the front apartment was engulfed by flames.

Crews found Fannie Thomas unresponsive on the second floor. She was rushed to Norwegian American Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Her husband of 45 years, Booker Thomas, was also found on the second floor. He was also taken to Norwegian, where he is listed in critical condition. He is being treated for smoke inhalation.

While the victims' daughter was overcome with grief, other family members signed a poster below the second-floor apartment. Relatives say the couple was inseparable.

"Two peas in a pod, excellent people, you didn't see the one without the other - grocery store, Burger King, saw those people together," said granddaughter Tyenna Davis.

"My mom was such a good person. She loved everybody. She didn't have no problems with anybody. I don't understand how the fire started," said daughter Lyanette Pitchford.

The grocery store below the Thomases' apartment celebrated its grand opening several months ago.

"i didn't want my mom to die like this. My mom was sick a lot of times, and she came through. I don't understand," said Pitchford.

Gregory Dukes' apartment is in the back of the building. He heard the commotion downstairs and moved quickly.

"We looked out the window and saw the reflection of the fire on the glass there, because it started on the front down there," Dukes said. "We saw the fire, we grabbed what we could grab and got out."

"I saw somebody in the window, screaming for help. So I started screaming to the fire department, 'Hey, they need help! Somebody's in the window!'" said Jose Cedeno, a neighbor.

"Smoke detectors were found in hallways on the outside and in the rear apartment. Some were working, some were not," said Jack Nagle, CFD deputy district chief.

The front upstairs apartment was destroyed. Dukes' apartment sustained smoke damage. The store manager said there was a lot of water damage, but no fire damage.

Seven people were displaced. The Red Cross helped them find a place to stay.

The state fire marshal was on the scene Wednesday morning, looking into how the fire started. A store employee said they usually close around 8 p.m. and they had no problems Tuesday night.

The corner market opened only six months ago. It still has "grand opening" signs up. The manager said his store cannot reopen until the cause of the fire has been determined.