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Back of the Yards

A Back Of The Yards Family Lost Everything In A Devastating Fire. Here’s How You Can Help

The family was able to escape, but their dogs died in the fire. It's not the first time they've faced adversity — the family sued ICE and the city in 2017 after father Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez was wrongfully put in the Police Department's gang database.

A fire broke out in an apartment building in the in the 4600 block of South Wood Street, displacing Celene Adame, Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez and their five children. Their two dogs were killed in the fire.
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BACK OF THE YARDS — A Back of the Yards family who lost their beloved family pets and nearly all of their belongings in a house fire over the weekend is raising money to cover basic necessities as they find a new place to live.

The fire broke out about 8 a.m. Sunday in the 4600 block of South Wood Street, Fire Department officials said. Firefighters responded to a heavy fire on the second floor of the building and put out the flames about 9:30 a.m., officials said.

Fire officials later said the building’s back porch was gone, the house’s roof was partially collapsed and a wall was about to collapse. No one was injured. Officials did not immediately have more information about how the fire started.

Celene Adame, Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez and their five children were able to safely escape the building, but the family lost their two dogs in the fire, Adame said.

“We left running, without shoes. The kids were in their pajamas. We couldn’t bring anything else — not a jacket, not a blanket,” Adame said in Spanish.

Adame said the family woke up to black smoke coming into the house from the porch while one of their dogs was barking.

Adame said she was told the fire started on the back porch stairs.

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A side view of the damage on the side of the South Wood Street home.

“The first thing I did was grab my kids, who were in their room,” Adame said.

The family ran to the street. As neighbors came out to see what was happening, they gave the family blankets and shoes, Adame said.

“It was total loss,” Adame said. “We couldn’t recover anything from the apartment. … Everything burned.”

A fundraiser to support the family has raised more than $6,500 of its $7,500 goal as of Tuesday morning. The family is staying with a friend as they find a place to live, Adame said.

This is not the first time the family has faced adversity.

In 2017, Catalan-Ramirez was at the center of a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the city of Chicago when he was detained for 10 months after being wrongfully placed on the Police Department’s gang database.

Catalan-Ramirez, from Guatemala, was arrested in his home March 27, 2017, by ICE agents. His lawyers filed a lawsuit in May that same year arguing ICE used false information to identify Catalan-Ramirez as a gang member. Records showed he had no criminal history in Cook County, and he maintained he was not a gang member.

The city settled the lawsuit in 2017 and affirmed that Catalan-Ramirez is not a gang member, according to the Tribune.

Catalan-Ramirez was released from ICE detention January 2018.

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