A young boy and girl died this morning after they and two other children were left home alone in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side, officials say.
The girl, 2, and the boy, 3, were found in a back bedroom after firefighters cut through burglar bars on the brick and stone two-flat in the 6400 block of South Paulina Street. Fire officials said they were investigating whether a space heater sparked the fire.
Ald. Toni Foulkes, 15th, arrived on the scene about an hour later and said she had been told by investigators that the four children were alone when the fire started.
The surviving children, a 7-year-old boy and his 4-year-old brother, were rescued by their aunt and interviewed by investigators at a neighbor's home.
Darnell, 7, said he and Marquis, 4, had fallen asleep watching Batman cartoons. The two other children -- his 2-year-old sister and 3-year-old cousin -- were asleep in another bedroom. When he woke up, the fire was already burning.
"When the fire started, everything shut off," Darnell said.
The boy said he and Marquis were in a bedroom by the kitchen and "the fire was in the front room where the couch is at. When we saw the fire, it was like in the front room, then it was by the bathroom door."
Darnell said his aunt came rushing through the front door. "When (she) saw the fire, she called all our names. When I opened the door, she told me, 'Come on, the fire's getting closer.' I coughed, my auntie was choking. My sister was banging on the door.
"When we got outside, police passed us, then drove backward and came up because there was a fire," he said.
Darnell's sister died in the fire, along with his cousin.
Darnell and Marquis were brought to a neighbor's house, where investigators from the Bomb and Arson unit and the Office of Fire Investigations (OFI) talked to them.
The investigator from OFI squatted down while talking to the boys. Only Darnell spoke. Marquis was quiet the entire time. Darnell spoke to a Tribune reporter afterward as he sat with four neighbors in their home.
The children were later taken into protective custody by the Department of Children and Family Services. Police said two women, a mother and an aunt, were being questioned.
When firefighters arrived around 3:30 a.m., they weren't able to get into the home because of intense heat and fire, a Fire Department official said. Fire was heavy throughout the basement and first floor, he said.
They finally got into the building by cutting through burglar bars, he said.
A neighbor told an investigator that the second-floor tenants recently moved out of the brick and stone two-flat.
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