Fire at vacant Gary building displaces mother, 2 young kids living next door

2014-06-16T21:06:00Z 2014-06-17T09:11:40Z Fire at vacant Gary building displaces mother, 2 young kids living next doorSarah Reese sarah.reese@nwi.com, (219) 933-3351 nwitimes.com

GARY | Nothing remained but a charred, smoldering husk after a fire Monday at a vacant two-story building on Delaware Street.

All of Gary's available firetrucks — including two engines and a ladder truck — responded to the fire, which displaced a mother and her two young sons from an apartment building next door.

An engine from the Lake Ridge Fire Department and a ladder truck from Merrillville provided mutual aid, Battalion Chief Donnie Williamson said.

Firefighters saw flames and heavy smoke when they arrived at 1985 Delaware St., Williamson said. The fire also has extended to the apartment building next door and was threatening two buildings at the back of the property, he said.

Firefighters immediately began pouring water on the building from atop an aerial ladder, he said. An arson investigator was called to look into the fire's origin, he said.

Firefighters kicked in the door at Antwanita Brown's residence at 400 E. 20th St. because witnesses feared her family might be inside.

Brown said she'd taken her 14-month-old son, who is fed through a feeding tube, and her 5-year-old son to her grandmother's house before the fire broke out. She left a window open, so her apartment sustained smoke damage, she said.

"His medicine and milk is all in there," Brown said of her 14-month-old son.

Brown was working with the American Red Cross to find shelter and medicine for her son, whose digestive system was not fully developed when he was born, she said.

She was also hoping that any shelter would include a place for her dog, which was rescued by neighbor Freddie Fields.

Brown stood in Fields' backyard petting her dog as firefighters began packing up their equipment.

Brown said the residence belonged to her father, but she's been staying there because her baby has been in and out of the hospital and she wants to be near family.

"I'm doing things for my son to make sure he's OK," she said. "I'm just emotional because it seems like it's always something."

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