Officials: Young girl dead after North Side fire - FOX 13 News

DCFS investigating death of girl, 3, in apartment fire

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Emergency crews respond to a fire Wednesday afternoon in the 1700 block of West Juneway Terrace. / image from Network Video Productions Emergency crews respond to a fire Wednesday afternoon in the 1700 block of West Juneway Terrace. / image from Network Video Productions
Girl's mother (Photo by FOX 32's Craig Wall) Girl's mother (Photo by FOX 32's Craig Wall)
(Photo by FOX 32's Craig Wall) (Photo by FOX 32's Craig Wall)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The state Department of Children and Family Services is investigating the death of a 3-year-old girl who died Wednesday after a mattress ignited in the North Side Rogers Park neighborhood.

Distraught family members huddled outside the apartment building, agonizing over the death of the 3-year-old girl.

The fire department said the fire started in a third floor bedroom.

A friend of the family said the victim's twin sister ran to another room to wake their mother, and told her that her sister had set a mattress on fire playing with matches or a lighter. The mother tried to throw the mattress out the window, but it wouldn't fit.

"The air inflamed it even more, it fueled the fire and she kinda let it fall back into the apartment and then after that she tried to run and get help from the neighbors," said family friend Schona Buranda.

A neighbor tried to use a fire extinguisher in the hallway, while the toddler's mother went back in.

"And she was looking for the kids. The baby that's gone right now, she couldn't' find her anywhere and I think she had run to hide," Buranda added.

The family claimed it took the fire department ten minutes to get on scene, and another 10-15 minutes to get into the apartment.

The Fire Department disputes that and said the response time was three and a half minutes, and firefighters immediately went into the building knowing a child was unaccounted for.

The child, identified by family members as 3-year-old LeAndrea White, was found dead in the bedroom. The fire department believes the little girl died from smoke inhalation. An autopsy Thursday was inconclusive pending further studies.

DCFS is investigating LeAndrea's mother for allegations of neglect after her daughter's death, according to spokeswoman Veronica Resa. The agency has received five prior reports of neglect involving the family, two of which were deemed unfounded, Resa said.

Three other children in the family have been placed with relatives under a DCFS-monitored safety plan, Resa said.

"She was a very bright kid, very smart and curious and active," Buranda said.

The Fire Department said there were no working smoke detectors in the building.

"That's got to be the message to everyone, get smoke detectors up and make sure they're working, that's vital," said Mark Nielsen, Asst. Deputy Fire Commissioner.

The fire was extinguished by 3 p.m. and the apartment unit was deemed uninhabitable, Police and Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said. Red Cross officials were helping an unspecified number of residents find shelter.

Fire Department officials will visit the neighborhood Thursday to pass out smoke detectors and fire safety information in the wake of the fatal blaze.

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