A fire at an apartment building in southwestern Illinois killed five siblings left home alone in the early hours of Friday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. The family was planning a birthday party on Friday for the mother of the children.
The five siblings, whose names have not been released, were between 2 and 9 years old, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Four of the children were found dead inside the apartment, and the fifth died at a hospital.
Chief of the East St. Louis Police Department Kendall Perry told the Daily Caller News Foundation the fire was a “tragedy” and “devastating” for the whole community. “Our Prayers and Condolences go out to the family and friends,” Perry said.
The children’s mother left to run an errand and returned as the building was on fire around 3 a.m., according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. An investigation into the cause of the fire is underway.
“I fell to my knees and almost passed out when I heard they were gone,” said Arthur Robinson, a friend of the family, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“The guys are taking it pretty hard,” Assistant Fire Chief George McClellan said according to NBC News.
Between 2014 and 2018, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 353,100 home fires per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. These home fires led to an annual average of 2,620 civilian deaths, 11,030 civilian injuries and $7.2 billion in property damage.
In June, a family passed away in a house fire after responders struggled to extinguish the flames. The family, consisting of a mother, father, and 14-year-old son, died in the blaze that engulfed their Pottstown, Pennsylvania home.
Two Virginia dogs were hailed as heroes in January after they lost their lives in a house fire right after they saved a 10-year-old boy. The child told police he was sleeping, but his two dogs began pouncing on him to wake up, alerting him to the fire.
In January, the Humane Society of Greater Rochester said it saved around 70 cats from a house fire in Perinton, New York. Many of the cats suffered smoke inhalation.
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