Official: Inspection might have prevented tragic Hammond fire

2014-01-10T21:36:00Z 2014-01-11T16:01:06Z Official: Inspection might have prevented tragic Hammond fireChas Reilly and Lauri Harvey Keagle Times Staff Writers nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Had city officials been given an opportunity to inspect the rental house at 644 Sibley St. prior to the fatal fire Wednesday night, the residence likely would have been declared uninhabitable.

Hammond City Attorney Kristina Kantar said residences must have basic utilities to be considered fit for habitation.

A NIPSCO spokesman Thursday said gas and electricity service was disconnected in the spring because of nonpayment.

The landlord of the residence hadn't allowed the city to inspect the building, Kantar said.

She said Hammond issued a citation to the landlord in May regarding the matter. A hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday.

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 other children from the blaze.

Chief Fire Inspector Michael Opinker said Andre Young remained at Stroger Hospital in Chicago in critical condition Friday morning.

"He will recover with no major surgeries," Opinker said.

The two children Young rescued, ages 2 and 6, also are expected to make a full recovery, Opinker said.

Firefighters' attempts late Wednesday to rescue the three children were hampered by the front door to the home being blocked from the inside by numerous items. Rescue crews had to remove the door from its hinges to gain access to the home, fighting intense heat and flames.

The bodies of the three children were found together just 6 feet from the door.

The children's mother was not home at the time of the blaze. 

The American Red Cross is assisting the Young family as well as the family of Jasmin Rice, who lived in the apartment above the Youngs'.

Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Margraf said a fund was established Friday at First Midwest Bank for the Young family. Donations can be made at any First Midwest Bank branch, he said.

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