HAMMOND | Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the company that owned a Hammond house in which a fire killed three children also owned many other buildings that are "sub par."
McDermott said he's been cracking down on cut-outs, also known as single-family homes that have been subdivided, since he became mayor in 2004.
The mayor made those comments Saturday following a house fire that killed three children — all younger than 5 — late Wednesday and injured the children's father and two siblings. The mother and another sibling were not at home when the fire broke out.
City officials also said if inspectors had been able to inspect the rental house at 644 Sibley St. prior to the fatal fire, the residence likely would have been declared uninhabitable.
McDermott said the city has set up guidelines, including inspections and zoning laws, to battle these subdivided units.
"This is a cancer on our housing stock," he said.
Hammond City Attorney Kristina Kantar said the city issued a citation to Real Estate Equity Solutions of Indiana LLC in May regarding the matter. A hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday, Kantar said. Attempts to reach the company or its attorney Saturday were not successful. As of late Saturday night, the current landlord's name was unclear.
Kantar said Friday residences must have basic utilities to be considered fit for habitation. A NIPSCO spokesman Thursday said gas and electricity service was disconnected to the first-floor apartment in the spring because of nonpayment. The house has another apartment on the second floor.
Kantar also said the landlord of the residence hadn't allowed the city to inspect the building, prompting the citation. McDermott said that company owns about 20 other units in the city, many of them "sub par."
Fire officials believe space heaters being powered by a generator fueled by propane are to blame for the blaze that killed Jayden Young, 7 months, Dasani Young, 4, and Alexia Young, 3.
The Lake County coroner's office listed the cause of death for all of the children as burns to the body. The manner of death is pending. Coroner's office investigators said Friday the final determination on the manner of death could take several days.
The father of the three children, Andre Young, 27, suffered severe burns during the fire after rescuing two of his children from the blaze.
Marisa Kollias, spokeswoman for Cook County Health and Hospitals System, said Sunday that the two children rescued from the fire were released from the hospital Saturday.
Kollias said the father of the children, Andre Young, remained in critical condition at Stroger Hospital in Chicago.