Joliet, Illinois, Monday, April 5, 1965
Trapped In Blaze Near Lockport
Eight children, ranging from one month to 14 years, were burned to death in a fire in their home Sunday night at 216 Yale Ave. Fairmount Lockport Township.
Seven of the victims were the children of Mrs. Irene Harris, 35. They were Kenneth, 12, Deborah, 14, Gloria, 7, Cynthia,5 Robin, 4, and twins Lisa and Lori who would have been two years old today.
Six week old Adrian Hollins daughter of Kay Hollins, 18 also died in the fire.
Mrs. Harris' son James, 16 related the story of the tragic deaths to county police.
The boy said that Robin was playing with matches near the garbage in the kitchen and apparently dropped one into the can. Paper and other refuse caught fire.
The fire in the can ignited curtains in the kitchen which in turn set the room on fire. In a matter of minutes the entire room was a mass of fire, the youth said.
James said he was watching television and his sister Deborah called to him that the house was on fire. He called the Lockport Police Department and then broke a window and jumped out the house. He asked Deborah to get the baby off a bed in the center of the housee and hand the child to him through the window. The girl was forced back by the smoke and fire. The boy said he then ran into the house to awaken his mother, who was sleeping in a front room.
Neighbors made a futile attempt to rescue the children from the burning home but were forced back by the fire and smoke.
Mrs. Hollins was not at home when the fire started.
Lockport firemen dug the charred bodies of seven children from the debris in the back bedroom of the nine-room, frame home. The bedroom was a lean-to type structure added to the house.
Coroner Willard Blood said the children apparently became frightened by the fire and ran into the rear bedroom. he said they probably huddled together on a bed. The bodies were found stacked in a pile in the debris. The body of the youngest child was found on a bed in the center of the house.
The children died of smoke asphyxiation and burns, Blood said. The bodies were taken to the Minor Funeral Home. Funeral arrangements have not been completed.
Both the mothers of the dead children were taken to Silver Cross Hospital for treatment of shock. They were later released.
A full investigation into the the fire will be conducted, Blood said.
Both Lockport Fire Chief Carl Munson and Blood said the death of the children was one of the worst tragedies in the history of Vill County.
The families rented the home from Charles Jenkins, 311 Yale Ave.
Munson said the house was a total loss. It was not determined if there was any insurance. There was no estimate of the loss.