Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In 1 Day, Fires Claim 21 Lives in 4 States 16 Children Were among the Victims

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

In 1 Day, Fires Claim 21 Lives in 4 States 16 Children Were among the Victims

Article excerpt

Twenty-one people - 16 of them children - were killed in fires Saturday in suburban Chicago, western Minnesota, Columbus, Ohio, and Washington state.

In Burbank, Ill., on the southwest boundary of Chicago, six children - ages 3 to 16 - were killed along with an adult when an early morning fire sent smoke through a ranch-style suburban home. Two adults managed to escape.

In Moorehead, Minn., in the western part of that state, a woman and six children were killed in an apartment house fire that began in a basement unit.

In the Burbank fire, a smoke detector was still blaring early Saturday as emergency medical teams tried in vain to save the occupants whom they pulled from the burning home.

"It was just too smoky. I couldn't go in," said Bob Pelech, a neighbor. "I kept on yelling, `People, come to the window!' . . . No one came to the window."

Killed were a 62-year-old man and the six children. Authorities declined to release their names. It was not known whether they were all members of the same family.

A pregnant woman managed to escape and wake neighbors. "She told me . . . she was nine-months pregnant," said neighbor Irina Prokip. "She just started having contractions."

The woman was hospitalized, but a nursing supervisor would not release details on her condition.

A second survivor was pulled out of the building by neighbors. She was in fair condition at a hospital.

Burbank Fire Chief Martin Kreil said the victims had been found throughout the house, lying where they apparently had been overcome by smoke. Investigators are trying to determine the cause of the fire, first reported at 3:08 a.m.

"All we know is it started in the front room and - from the neighbors - there was a big explosion. It was probably the windows blowing out," Kreil said.

The victims were suffering from burns and smoke inhalation. They were still alive when they were taken from the scene but later died, hospital officials said.

Pelech said he and another neighbor had tried to enter the house to rescue the residents but been driven back by smoke. …

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