Eight people, including six children, died after a fire broke out at an apartment in Chicago early on Sunday, officials said.
The deaths raised the number of fatalities from residential fires in the city so far this year to 39, surpassing the 27 killed in such fires in all of 2017, a Chicago Fire Department spokesman said.
The fire on Sunday was reported just before 4 a.m. in the Little Village neighborhood, the spokesman, Larry Langford, said.
The victims included an infant and adults but their specific ages were unavailable. Mr. Langford said two people were hospitalized in critical condition, with severe second-degree burns and smoke inhalation.
In a statement on Sunday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “We all pray the two living victims will make a recovery despite the odds.”
A firefighter was also hospitalized for exertion, but he was in good condition, Mr. Langford said.
The fire started in a second-floor apartment of a brick building. Its cause had not been determined. All the victims were found in the apartment, Mr. Langford said.
The heat from the fire was so intense that three other buildings, including one across an alley, were damaged, he said. There was no one living on the first floor of the brick building, which was boarded up, but a separate staircase allowed access to the second floor.
A woman who called the authorities began knocking on doors of a neighboring three-story building and helped evacuate all 30 of its residents as the fire spread to that building, Mr. Langford said.
“There is no preliminary evidence that would make it suspicious,” he said, adding that the building where the fire started had no working smoke detectors.
It’s possible the deaths could have been prevented if a smoke detector had alerted the people inside the apartment, he said, noting that a staircase near the front of the brick building was still intact and the fire started near the back.
Speaking of the increased death toll in residential fires, Mr. Langford said: “This is very unusual in Chicago. We’re going the wrong way fast, and it’s very disturbing to the department.”
Mitch Smith contributed reporting.
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