ROGERS PARK — A 3-year-old girl died in a Rogers Park apartment fire Wednesday afternoon after a mattress caught fire and she ran away from her mother to hide, a family friend said.
The toddler, Le'Andrea White, and her twin sister had been playing with matches or a lighter on the mattress, the family friend said.
The fire occurred in a four-story apartment building in the 1700 block of West Juneway Terrace at 2:22 p.m., according to Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Mark Nielsen. The building is in the pocket of Chicago just north of Howard Street on the Far North Side.
"The child was badly burned," Nielsen said.
Le'Andrea was found on the floor near the window of a fourth-floor bedroom, where flames were heaviest. She was pronounced dead on the scene at 6:05 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
Two other people were taken to area hospitals by ambulance in serious condition. Their ages and genders are unknown.
Schona Buranda, the family's spokesperson and director of Good News Partners, a social service organization, said the girl had been playing with matches or a lighter with her twin sister when a mattress in the bedroom caught fire.
Fire officials confirmed a mattress was lit on fire.
The mother, who had been sleeping in a nearby room, then "attempted to throw the mattress out the window," Buranda said.
When the fire began to spread, Buranda said, the mother wasn't able to find her daughter in the apartment.
"I think she ran to hide," Buranda said. "That's how she ended up losing her."
The mother, identified by family as Le'Sheena Weekly, was distraught with grief at the scene, which quickly filled with curious residents and emergency personnel Wednesday afternoon.
Nielsen, with the fire department, said the fire was contained within the apartment, though he wasn't sure how many of the building's residents would be displaced.
He said the unit didn't have any working smoke detectors and there were attempts to fight the fire with extinguishers before firefighters arrived at the scene.
A volunteer with the American Red Cross said on the scene said he would assist anyone who needed a place to stay for the night, including the victim's family.
Buranda, who works just down the street and also witnessed the fire, said she saw "a blaze coming out the window" before she called 911.
Buranda said the mother was in "total distress" outside in the courtyard yelling, "Come get my baby, come get my baby!"
Other witnesses said neighbors had tried to use their own ladders to reach the apartment's window, but weren't able to reach.
Buranda said her organization has worked closely with the woman's family, providing them with food, clothing and other services through the years.
"She's a very smart and intelligent girl," she said of the young girl who died. A "very smart, curious, lovely child."
Good News Partners, at 1600 W. Jonquil Terrace, is accepting donations for the family.