A fast-moving fire sparked by a 4-year-old boy playing with a lighter in bed early Thursday left three children dead and more than a dozen people homeless on Chicago's South Side, officials said.
Fire officials said the blaze broke out in a bedroom at the back of the Englewood home where the three children, ages 2, 4 and 9, were trapped. They died of smoke inhalation, according to fire department spokesman Larry Langford.
"I tried to get my babies out, but it was too late," said Stacey Austin, the children's father. He and other tenants say the fire was moving too quickly.
"It happened real fast. They tried to go back in and get the other three kids, but the fire was moving so fast," said Sheila Dorsey, who lived on the second floor of the home. "We were trying to get through the back window but couldn't do it. It was so much fire."
The boy was playing with a lighter in his bunk bed when the fire started, Langford said. Authorities said the parents tried dousing the flames with pots of water but couldn't get the blaze under control.
It isn't clear if the 4-year-old who died was the same child who sparked the blaze.
Austin, his wife and their seven other children made it out of the home safely, as did Dorsey and other tenants on the second floor.
Two Chicago police officers were treated for minor smoke inhalation.
Authorities said 17 people had been living in the building, which is now uninhabitable.