CHICAGO — A Sunday morning fire tore through a Chicago-area apartment house, killing at least seven people, including a newborn and three other children. The fire, one of the deadliest residential blazes in the Chicago area in recent years, spread to nearby buildings in the 3000 block of 48th Court in Cicero and left more than 20 people homeless. The cause of the blaze was unknown. Officials said they also will be looking at how many families were living in the house. The inferno took the lives of a 3-day-old baby boy, a 3-year-old boy and 16-year-old male and female twins, Cicero town spokesman Ray Hanania said. Also dead were a 20-year-old man, a 19-year-old woman and an 18-year-old woman, he said. Those lost in the fire included Byron Reed, 20, his girlfriend Sallie Gist, 19, and their sons Rayshawn Reed, 3, and Byron Reed, 3 days old, Hanania and family member Amy Simmons said. Hanania and Simmons, Byron Reed's sister, said the victims also included Gist's brother and sister, 16-year-old twins Elijah Gist Jr. and Elisha Gist, and an 18-year-old family friend, Tiera Davidson. The relatives had gathered at the apartment to celebrate the birthday of the father of one of the victims and the return home of infant Byron Reed, a family spokesman said. Relatives and friends said they were grieving those who perished in the flames. "Right now, the family is praying," said Patrick Lewis, who said he was a cousin of the victims. "You can imagine a mother losing her children. (The victims' relatives are) really, really grieving." Lewis said the victims were "loving people, young people growing up and just loving life." So many deaths coming to one family was an unimaginable tragedy, he said. The victims are scheduled to undergo autopsies Monday at the Cook County medical examiner's office. They were thought to have died in the rear second floor or attic portions of the building, the same location where early indicators show the fire may have begun, Hanania said. "The investigators will carefully look at the circumstances of the building," he said, adding that there was not necessarily wrongdoing in the zoning or partitioning of the apartments. "When you lose so many people like this in one building, I think it justifies a close examination." The scene of the fire, which Hanania said was called in to 911 at about 6:30 a.m., was alternately frantic on Sunday — with family members searching for information about missing loved ones — and somber, as firefighters painstakingly sifted through the debris left in the destroyed building. Authorities said the blaze started in the rear of a building at 3034 48th Court, where an unknown number of people were staying. "Apparently, there were a lot of people in this building," Hanania said, with as many as 40 occupants possible. Adding to the confusion, he said, was the devastation caused by the flames. "The damage to the building was just tremendous." The only people taken to hospitals as a result of the blaze were three firefighters, two of whom were treated and released. One firefighter suffered "significant but not serious" injuries when a chimney collapsed on his head, Hanania said. The man was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago for treatment, he said. "I understand he's doing well," Hanania said. In the coming days, the town will examine occupancy regulations on the building, which reportedly encompassed four residential units, one of which was vacant, he said. "This building for some reason had multiple families living in it. That's something that we're going to have to look at," Hanania said. "The federal government doesn't allow us to go in and control these things anymore. But I think after this fire, it might be something we're going to look at." The building has two, two-bedroom apartments and two, three-bedroom apartments, according to the building's landlord, Lawrence Myers. It's unknown how many people were inside when the fire started. Myers said "a lot of people," children included, live in the building, but he didn't know exactly how many live there. He declined further comment. The flames shooting from the building also reached a nearby coach house and a garage, setting the coach house ablaze. The city of Cicero took 23 people who were in the buildings to a public safety office building and then placed them in hotels, Cicero Trustee Dennis Raleigh said. Relatives and friends of the fire's victims said some people were staying in the apartment building Saturday night for a birthday party to be held the next day. Kim Hackett said he was bringing his 4-year-old daughter to the party Sunday morning when he learned of the fire. "She was mad because I didn't bring her over here" on Saturday night, Hackett said of his daughter. He is now thanking God he got home too late from work to do so. (EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE) One family that did get out of the fire, the Santanas, have Victoria Luna to thank. Luna doesn't normally drive past her mother's house on her way to work. But this Sunday, the Cicero resident, 22, stopped for gas at a nearby station. When she saw smoke wafting up from the area near where her mother lives, she hurried there. "I saw the whole top of the building on fire," Luna said. She ran down the street and helped her mother, Lorraine Santana, and her siblings out of their apartment. As Luna helped them out, she said she heard smoke detectors going off in her mother's house. Luna's mother, two sisters, Angel Santana, 7, and Jasmine Santana, 14, got out, as did her brother, Joshua Santana, 20. They escaped with their lives and their Chihuahua "Tiny," then Luna ran back into the building to try to help others to safety. Luna wrapped a scarf around her mouth but found the smoke too dense to breath.
Molly Noel, who has friends in the building, calls relatives at the scene of a fatal fire in Cicero, Ill. Sunday, Feb. 14, 2010. An early morning fire that ripped through a suburban Chicago apartment building has left seven people dead, including a newborn baby, a 3-year-old and four teenagers.
(AP Photo/Chicago Sun-Times, Al Podgorski)