CHICAGO (AP) _ Four children died when fire raced up a stairwell in an apartment building on Chicago’s far South Side early Monday, trapping them in their bedrooms and forcing their mother and her boyfriend to leap from a third-story window, fire officials said.
The oldest girl, 15-year-old Carlisa Coleman, was found on top of one of the younger children in a closet, and “it appears she was trying to protect the younger child,” Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said. The other two were found in a bedroom.
The other children were Carlvon Cark, 13, Shamaron Coleman, 11, and Erena Smith, 7, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said.
The fire began a little after 3 a.m. in a second-floor apartment in the 18-unit building in the Roseland neighborhood, sending dozens of residents fleeing into an alley with their children and pets. As they ran to the front of the building, some neighbors saw the woman and man leap from the window.
Darlene Jones, 31, who lived on the second floor, said her dog, Toto, woke her with incessant barking. She said she opened her front door and could see smoke and flames in the apartment across the hallway.
She said she slammed her door and ran out the back stairwell with her 12-year-old daughter, first running up to the third floor to pound on the family’s door.
She said she could hear the woman inside screaming, “It’s in the hall! It’s in the hall! It’s in the hall!”