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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Deadly Fire That Killed 9 Kids Happened In Building With History Of Electrical Violations

The building was inspected on June 8, following a complaint from a tenant, according to Department of Buildings spokesman Gregg Cunningham.  

a spokeswoman for the city’s law department, said the city was “disappointed in the ruling and plan to file a motion to reconsider.”
Mauricio Peña/ Block Club Chciago
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LITTLE VILLAGE — The building where a deadly fire broke out this weekend, killing 9 children and badly injuring one other person, had previously been cited for building code violations, city officials said.

Earlier this summer, the city’s Department of Buildings cited the property owner at 2224 S. Sacramento Avenue for electrical violations.

The building was inspected on June 8, following a complaint from a tenant, according to Department of Buildings spokesman Gregg Cunningham.  

During the inspection, “the building was cited for two electrical violations, one for grounding in the front of the building and one for an illegal electrical cord going from the front building to the coach house,” Cunningham said in an email.

A court date is set for Sept. 24, Cunningham added.

The tragedy unfolded overnight Sunday. Fire crews arrived at the fire in the 2200 block of South Sacramento at about 4 a.m. Sunday.

All of those killed in the fire were children, Chicago Fire Deputy District Chief Walter Schroeder said Monday morning. Ald. George Cardenas (12th) said the victims were children and teenagers as old as 16 years old.

“One of the biggest things, I want this to never happen again and whatever we have to do on our end to make sure it does not happen again,” Cardenas said. “As we move forward, we need the community to come together and heal. That’s what we are focused on right now.”

Two other people — both children, according to Schroeder — were badly hurt in the fire and are hospitalized.

About 30 people were displaced across three buildings on the block because of the fire, Schroeder said.

Credit: Mauricio Peña
Chicago Fire Deputy District Chief Walter Schroeder, left, Chicago Fire Deputy District Chief Annette Nance Holt, center, and Chicago Fire Commander Francisco Velez, right, discuss the deadly Little Village fire Monday morning and urge residents to make sure they have functioning smoke detectors.

It began in the rear of the building and spread to the front. No smoke detectors were found in the building, fire officials said.

The cause of the fire is not known yet, and the investigation is ongoing.

Attempts to reach the property owner, Merced Guttierrez, were unsuccessful.

According to city officials, the violations warranted Circuit Court enforcement, but the infractions were not sufficient to force tenants to vacate the building at the time. 

“Other contributing factors would have had to have been present to warrant vacating the building. Further, past enforcement actions show that the owners have pulled permits and have been cooperative in addressing previous violations,” a city source said.

Deputy District Chief Annette Nance-Holt, Chicago Fire Department expressed condolences on the loss of lives.

“It’s heartwrenching to know this happened in this day and age,” Nance-Holt said.

Fire department officials canvassed the neighborhood Monday morning, handing out fire alarms and offering information on fire safety.

“When we lose one life, that’s too many lives … today it’s even more critical, we lost eight people in a fire and that’s unheard of in the city of Chicago,” Nance-Holt said.  “I can’t even count back to when we lost this many lives [in a fire.]”

Cardenas said he would meet with the community and talk about safety to “prevent and learn from this tragedy.”

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s identified four of the nine victims Monday as 3-month old Amaya Almaraz, 10 year-old Giovanni Monarrez, 16-year-old Victor Mendoza and 14-year-old Cesar Contreras.

Since the tragedy, the Little Village community has rallied together to raise money for the funeral costs, and assist families displaced by the fire.

Credit: Mauricio Pena/ Block Club Chicago
Neighbors created a memorial in the 2200 block of South Sacramento after a devastating fire killed nine children early Sunday.