Earlier this week a home fire in Hammond, Indiana killed three young children, and investigators are now looking into exact causes of the blaze. Our team of burn injury attorneys is keeping this family in our thoughts, from one Chicagoland family to another.
The two-unit house erupted in flames around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, January 8, 2014. The home is owned by a couple who live there with their five children, ages ranging from six years to seven months old. Two of the children survived along with the couple, ages two and six, and are reported to be in good condition.
When firefighters responded to the scene, the 27-year-old father was lying in a snowbank to douse the flames from his burning body. He entered the home at least once to save as many of his children as he could. The bodies of his three remaining children – seven months, three years, and four years – were later found by firefighters near the front door. The father is currently in critical condition at Stroger Hospital in Cook County, Illinois.
Hammond Fire Chief Inspector told the Chicago Tribune that the fire was likely caused by a space heater that was connected to a propane tank. According to the paper, living conditions in the rental home were decaying; their electricity was cut off in March 2013 and gas service in April, with the water being the last to go in October 2013.
The company that owns the building, Real Estate Equity Solutions of Indiana, repeatedly ignored state inspectors, citations, penalties and fines, the last being for $2,600 in August. The real estate company was due in court in mid-January so the city could receive an inspection warrant.
Though the home was not connected to gas or electric utilities, firefighters said they identified at least three space heaters, including the portable propane-powered model that is suspected of causing the devastating fire. The family’s neighbors reportedly let them run an extension cord from their apartment for the space heaters.
Fire investigators searched the home after the fire was tamed, finding piles of clothes and other easily-flammable items strewn near heaters. December through February report the highest numbers of home fires and fatalities of all other months, due largely from the unsafe use of space heaters and the like. Those living in rural areas are significantly more likely to be using portable space heaters and wood stoves and are thus twice as likely to be involved in a home fire.
On its website, the U.S. Fire Administration details how to keep your home and family safe while using wood stoves, space heaters and fireplaces.Among its recommendations include:
- Keeping a three-foot ‘kid-free’ zone around open fires and heaters
- Carefully following manufacturers’ instructions for installation and maintenance.
- For electric space heaters, buying only those evaluated by a nationally-recognized lab
- Ensure heaters have thermostat control mechanisms and auto switch-off
- Remembering to plug in only to the wall (not power strips) and unplug when not in use
- Never filling heater with gasoline of camp stove fuel, and use in a well-ventilated room
- Cleaning chimneys frequently and inspect for obstructions, cracks
- Never burning trash, paper or green wood, and don’t wear loose-fitting clothes near flames
- Having a working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and practice home escape plans
Fire injury attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have been advocating on behalf of burn victims for over two decades, and we understand how complex and sensitive these cases are. If you or a loved one suffered a serious injury in a fire that was caused by someone else’s negligence, contact our firm today. We provide free case reviews to potential clients from all 50 states, and are available to chat at any time of day or night.