Devastating fire in South Bend claimed the lives of five children

NOW: Devastating fire in South Bend claimed the lives of five children

SOUTH BEND, Ind.- A house fire at 222 North LaPorte Ave in South Bend claimed the lives of five children around 6:15 p.m. Sunday evening.

When firefighters got to the scene, they saw a home engulfed in flames. The surviving 11-year-old girl is now fighting for her life in an Indianapolis burn unit.

There are still many unanswered questions about exactly how the fire broke out. Fire Chief Carl Buchanon even says this is one of the deadliest blazes in his 30 years on the job and neighbors are left stunned by the tragedy.

“Even though I didn't know them, just picturing for the one person who did make it just imagining that everybody else is gone is pretty sad,” said Elijah Hipskind, who lives in a neighboring home.

Hipskind remembers his dad banging on his door telling him to look outside when he saw the unthinkable, the blaze engulfing the home. Dozens of firefighters battled the flames, which spread quickly due to windy weather conditions, for about three hours before they subsided. 

One adult was able to escape the fire with minor injuries after trying to rescue the other children trapped on the second floor. Firefighters eventually got them all out, but five of the six children were declared dead. 

The Indiana State Fire Marshal, Steve Jones, stresses the importance of all families having a plan in case a fire breaks out. “Having working smoke detectors, having a way out, talking to your kids, cause this stuff is difficult,” said Jones. 

Although the exact cause of the fire is still unknown, Mayor James Mueller says the city does have preventative measures in place, including the Rental Safety Verification Program to check on rental properties.

Chief Buchanon offered his condolences to the children's devastated family and expressing gratitude for his fire crews putting their own lives on the line. 

"I urge the community to join us in honoring the memory of the young lives lost and the heroic efforts of our firefighters without hesitation risked everything in their attempt to save south bends own,” said Buchanon.

As of right now the cause of the fire is still under investigation but the State Fire Marshal's Task Force is now investigating.

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