ST. JOHN TWP. — A female child died and two other persons were injured when flames consumed a home in the 9100 block of State Line Road early Sunday, St. John Fire Chief Fred Willman said.
The Lake County coroner's office was dispatched to the scene at 7:05 a.m. and pronounced the child dead at 8:14 a.m. The cause of death is still pending, according to a news release. Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said in a news release that the dead child was found in the basement of the home.
Crews first responded to the scene around 6:30 a.m. to combat a residential structure fire with possible entrapment of children. Four occupants were in the house; they were later identified as two grandparents and two grandchildren, Willman said.
The grandmother was rescued and taken to an area hospital for treatment. She remains in critical condition. The grandfather traveled with her to the hospital, Willman said.
According to Martinez's statement, CPR was performed on another grandchild, who was flown to a Chicago hospital. The child is also in critical condition, Willman said.
Crews could not immediately get to the other grandchild until some of the blaze had been doused. The fire took 2 ½ hours to put out, said Willman, who added that the house was a total loss.
"It was massive," he said. "We were out here six hours altogether."
Firefighters and equipment from at least a dozen agencies responded to the scene. Extra manpower and water needed to be transported in to fight the blaze. Three firefighters were treated and released at the scene for heat exhaustion, Willman said.
"The emotional impact of this tragedy is shared by the members of the Lake County Sheriff's Department," Martinez's statement said.
An investigation is ongoing. Dyer and St. John Police, Lake County Sheriff's Office, the Indiana State Fire Marshall and Superior EMS were at the scene, Willman said.
Firefighters and equipment were provided by Center Twp., Crete, Crete Twp., Crown Point, Griffith, Highland, Lake Hills, Lowell, Merrillville, Munster, Schererville and St. John.
At the scene Sunday afternoon, parts of the home's roof were missing. Charred remains of rooms and hallways could be seen through the windows. The burned-out remains of two vehicles were visible in the garage. Crews were installing fencing around the property.
Jonathan Pederson, who lives on Moraine Street near the home, was awake early when he saw the fire and heard emergency crews arrive shortly after.
"We could just hear the snapping and popping of wood," Pederson said. "All we saw was smoke billowing. (The fire) had to be going through the roof. We heard yelling. That breaks my heart."
Duke Radoicic, who lives on the Illinois side of the road in Crete Twp., said he heard and saw the fire while drinking his morning coffee. He said he went outside to observe and captured photos and video on his cellphone.
"There were flames coming up right away," Radoicic said. "I saw smoke billowing from the garage. I heard screaming, windows breaking."
Mike Geise, of St. John Twp., a neighbor next to the home, said he got up around 8 a.m. to let his two dogs out when he saw the scene.
"There were pretty much fire engines all up the street," Geise said.
Check back at nwi.com for updates as they become available.