- The Washington Times - Monday, September 4, 2006

CHICAGO (AP) — A preliminary investigation is blaming candles used for light in an apartment without electricity for a Sunday fire that killed six children inside, a fire department official said yesterday as investigators continued sifting through debris.

The fire, the city’s deadliest in years, has been classified as accidental, but the Chicago Police Department also was investigating, which is standard when there are deaths, Officer Marcel Bright said.

A preliminary investigation shows the Sunday morning blaze “was caused by candles” in the three-bedroom apartment in Rogers Park on the city’s North Side, Fire Cmdr. Will Knight said.

Cmdr. Knight said fire investigators have found no evidence of smoke detectors, although Chicago Alderman Joe Moore said Sunday that the landlord told him there were smoke detectors in the unit when the Ramirez family moved in.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the dead as Vanessa Ramirez, 14; Eric Ramirez, 12; Suzette Ramirez, 10; Idaly Ramirez, 6; Kevin Ramirez, 3; and Escarlet Ramos, 3. Friends said the Ramirez family had been baby-sitting Escarlet.

All six victims died of inhalation injuries, and Vanessa Ramirez was burned, the medical examiner’s office said yesterday.

Another child of the family, 18-year-old Yadira, spoke at the Howard Area Community Center, where area residents mobilized to offer donations, the Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site yesterday afternoon.

Miss Ramirez asked for privacy for her family to mourn their loss, but said, “We are suffering a terrible situation,” stopping to wipe tears before a gaggle of TV news cameras. Of her mother, Augusta, the girl added: “Like any mother who has lost her children, she feels destroyed.” Miss Ramirez had been staying at her godmother’s house for the weekend in Round Lake Beach, Ill.

Mrs. Ramirez and a 3-month-old girl were treated at a hospital and released. Two other injured children were taken to area hospitals, but information on their conditions was unavailable yesterday.

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