August 30, 2018

Chicago Fire Update: 10 Children Dead

This post updates my last post regarding a horrific residential fire in Chicago last Sunday morning.

Death Toll Update:  The death toll in the fire has now been updated to 10, all children between the ages of 3 months and 16 years.  It was originally reported that 2 victims were adults; this was incorrect.  All victims died from smoke inhalation.

Residence:  The residence was originally described as an apartment building.  That is a bit in accurate.  It is actually a home (described as a 2-story Coach House) that appears to have been separated into unique rental living units by floor.  Whether or not the building separation was legal and permitted has not been disclosed.  The first floor was vacant, the children were all on the 2nd floor of the residence.  The Coach House sits behind the main house on the property, a 3-story brownstone.  Code Enforcement had issued Code Citations since 2007 on both homes, although the details of the citations have not been made public.

Children:  The children were all at a sleep over.  The children were unattended, no adults were present at the home.  A Child Neglect Investigation has been opened up by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Service.

Smoke Detectors:  It has been reconfirmed that no working smoke detectors were found in the building.  Investigators did find 1 smoke detector on the 2nd floor, but the battery had been removed from it.  Fire investigators have stated that it is the building owner's responsibility to install smoke detectors, but the tenant's responsibility for maintaining the smoke detectors, including keeping batteries in the units.

Cause of Fire:  Not yet determined.  The fire started in an enclosed porch at the rear of the building.  It has been called the deadliest Chicago fire in more than a decade.

As I stated earlier ...

According to Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokesperson Larry Langford, the deaths and injuries could have been avoided if working smoke detectors had been in use:
"It was not hard to get out. The fire started in the rear, and the entryway to the front was wide open," Langford said. "Had they been awake or if someone had woken them, they would have gotten out."
The people would be alive today had there been working smoke detectors in the apartment.

During a fire, a person can become unconscious and die from smoke inhalation in as little as 2 minutes.  2 minutes!  This is one life saving issue I counsel clients on when I review residential and business fire insurance.  Make sure your home and business has working smoke detectors.  If battery powered, change the batteries every 6 months.  Replace smoke detector units every 10 years, or sooner if they malfunction.

Smoke detectors.  Inexpensive and life saving. 

About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit

Mary Rae Fouts


  1. Did all of the children live there and where were the parents? i hope the fire was not started by the children.

    1. Re: children, it has been reported that some of the children lived there, while others were over for a sleepover. No adult was present, but it was reported that 'a mother' had been present in the apartment some hours before. Child Protective Services apparently has had numerous contact with the children and their parent(s) guardians(s) in the past.


Thanks for sharing your comments! Comments are moderated before posting to weed out spam.