The youngest of the five fatalities was 17 months old, authorities said
A residential fire in South Bend, Indiana Sunday evening claimed the lives of five children, authorities said.
The South Bend Fire Department said in a news release that firefighters responded to 222 North LaPorte Ave. where upon arrival, they were met with intense flames that occupied the first and second floors of the structure.
The department added that despite the conditions, firefighters contained a good amount of the fire on the first floor and reached the second floor where multiple people were found trapped. In total, six people were able to be rescued.
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“Tragically, five of these individuals, all children, would later be pronounced deceased,” the South Bend Fire Department said in its statement. “One survivor was urgently transported to Memorial Hospital and later airlifted to a specialized pediatric burn center in Indianapolis for further treatment.”
“As we mourn the lives lost, we also extend our deepest sympathies to the families affected by this tragedy,” continued the department’s statement. “The South Bend Fire Department is committed to providing support to these families during this difficult time and is working closely with local & State authorities to investigate the cause of the fire.”
The department also said that one of its firefighters fell through the second floor onto the first floor. He was taken to a local hospital and is now recovering at his home.
“This incident last night was a horrific tragedy in our community,” South Bend Mayor James Mueller said at a press conference Monday. “We know this is rippling across the entire community today and will for some time. Our heartfelt condolences and prayers are with the family and the rest of our community…We will look to find answers in the days ahead and figure out how to make sure this never happens again in South Bend or any community.”
"Our hearts are low and feeling very saddened right now,” South Bend Fire Chief Carl Buchanon said at the press conference. “We know how hard it is to lose anyone because we do everything in our power to avoid it. But it hurts even more so when it’s someone who has just begun their time on this earth, not able to make conscientious decisions which is where the adults we’re supposed to help them with.”
Buchanon added that the ages of the victims ranged from 17 months old to 11 years old, the latter who was transported to Indianapolis. He also said that there was an adult present at the scene who gave firefighters information about how many people were in the residence at the time. Buchanon said the adult was able to escape from the fire but not before making a “valiant attempt” to help rescue the children but was overcome by the heavy smoke.
In its press release, the South Bend Fire Department commended its firefighters for their courage and dedication during Sunday’s fatal blaze.
“Their actions reflect the highest ideals of selflessness and a citizens-first ethos, characteristics emblematic of the bravery inherent in our city's first responders,” said the department.
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