8 children, teens killed in Little Village fire identified

Monday, August 27, 2018
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Eight children and teens killed in a fire early Sunday in the Little Village neighborhood on the Southwest Side have been identified.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Eight children and teens killed in a fire early Sunday in the Little Village neighborhood on the Southwest Side have been identified.

All of the victims are 16 and younger. One was just 3 months old. Two other teenagers were critically injured.

"This is a tragedy beyond anything I ever dreamed in my life," said Ramonita Reyes, the victims' grandmother.

According to family members, the children ranged in age from 3 months to 16 years. The victims have been identified by family members as Amayah Almaraz, three months old; Alanni Ayala, 3; Ariel Garcia, 5; Gialanni Ayala, 5; Giovanni Ayala, 10; Xavier Contreras, 11; Nathan Contreras, 13; and Victor Mendoza, 16.

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Amayah Almaraz, 3 months. (Family photo)
Family photo

"We have not had this in many, many years. This amount of fatalities and injuries in one location," said Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago.

It is, in fact, the worst house fire registered in the city of Chicago in recent memory.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement extending condolences to the families.

"The city shares the grief of the families who have lost so many on this day," he said in the statement. "Our thoughts go out to not only the families of those who perished but to members of the department who pushed as hard as possible to reverse the deadly fate of the eight who are now gone. We all pray the two living victims will make a recovery despite the odds."

The fire started on the enclosed rear porch of a coach house behind a three-story apartment building about 4 a.m. in the 2200 block of South Sacramento Avenue, according to Chicago Fire Media Affairs and Chicago police.

Relatives said there was a sleepover going on Saturday night and that the deceased are from at least two families.

A neighbor came home from work just before 4 a.m., saw smoke and called 911.

"The person who came and made the initial call also started knocking on doors and telling people there was a fire, so they basically started to self-evacuate as the fire companies got on the scene. So the female who did that saved a lot of lives," said Santiago.

Fire officials say many of the victims were already dead when they arrived. The victims were all found on the second floor. The first floor was vacant.

Marcos Contreras lost two brothers and two sisters in the fire, along with three cousins.

"I don't even know how I'm going to wake up and continue life, knowing that my brothers and sisters are six feet underground," Contreras said.

It's not clear who was supervising the children.

Fourteen-year-olds Ceasar Contreras and Adrian Hernández are at Stroger Hospital still on life support, in critical condition.

Relatives today placed crosses with the names of the dead in front of the home.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been called in to help with the investigation, but officials said not to draw any conclusions as they have not yet determined if the fire was accidental or otherwise.

There were no working smoke detectors.

According to the Building Department website in Chicago, the building failed its last inspection in June due to electrical issues.

Fire officials are investigating.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the families with funeral and burial costs.

Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.