ENGLEWOOD — Officials say a pair of toddlers were left unsupervised in their South Side home when a fire tore through the home, killing them early Saturday morning.
Two-year-old Javaris Meakens and his 3-year-old sister, Jariyah, were found together in a bed, while two older children escaped the blaze. Police said the 23-year-old mother of the victims was being questioned, as was another caretaker.
Fire officials said they believed a hot plate used to heat the house sparked the fire that gutted the two-bedroom apartment on the 6400 block of South Paulina Street at about 3:30 Saturday morning.
Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said firefighters conducted "a very aggressive search" for the two children, but conditions made it difficult. Flames burst through a window, and firefighters cut through bars on the windows trying in vain to reach the children. The fire burned away part of the floor, forcing crews to break through the walls.
"We just saw the fire, the flames, the smoke and the chaos," said Lorraine Jackson, a longtime resident of the block.
“I know exactly who these kids are," said neighbor Kevin Allison, 25. "They were little ones who would play out on the porch and just outside the gate."
Two other older boys - aged 4 and 7 - in the home survived the fire. The four children, lived there with their mothers who were sisters in their 20s, neighbors said. Neighbors said other people may have lived there regularly.
The older children were taken out of the house when the fire occurred and went to a neighbor's home, said 15th Ward Ald. Toni Foulkes, who was called to the scene by fire officials shortly after 5 a.m.
"Today is my ward's Christmas party," Foulkes said. "It's a day to celebrate children and then we lost two."
Fire officials say the children were home alone.
The older boys were taken into protective custody by the Department of Children and Family Services.
Family of the victims refused to comment at the scene. Neighbors said they moved to the neighborhood about a year ago.
Fire officials will spend the morning passing out fire safety information and smoke alarms to residents of the neighborhood.