Mom and Her 4 Daughters — All Under Age 6 — Die in 'Heartbreaking' House Fire While Dad Works
Tragedy struck on Wednesday morning after officials say a fire broke out inside an Illinois home, ultimately killing a 25-year-old mother and her four young daughters.
The Des Plaines Fire Department confirmed the tragic incident in a press release on Wednesday, calling the fire "truly heartbreaking" after it killed the mom and her daughters, who were 6, 5, 3 and 1.
"In my 30+ years of fire service, this is the most difficult scene I've responded to," Fire Chief Daniel Anderson said in a statement. "Any loss is tragic, but losing four young children is truly heartbreaking for our department and the entire community."
With his entire family gone, the husband and father — who was at work for his landscaping company during the incident — is now left grieving in unimaginable circumstances, ABC affiliate WSL-TV reported.
According to fire officials, the flames broke out on W. Oakton Street at a single-family property, which had been converted into four apartment units, just before 10:30 a.m.
When firefighters arrived, they immediately entered the burning home and located the children on the second floor, the press release stated.
"We're telling them, 'There [are] kids up there, kids up there,'" neighbor Pabel Marrero recalled to WLS-TV. "They're trying to kick the door down, but the door wasn't coming down."
"One of the firefighters comes out with one of the girls in his hand and she's blackened by all the smoke and all the stuff. She is semi-conscious. A minute or two goes by, there's another one that comes out in the same condition," Marrero continued.
After getting all four kids out, they were transported to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital but were later pronounced dead, according to fire officials.
Firefighters also pulled the mom from the blaze, but it was sadly too late as she was pronounced dead at the scene, the release stated.
"There was nothing we could do. There was nothing the police could do. There was nothing the firefighters could do," Marrero told WLS-TV.
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office later identified the victims as Citahaly Zamiodo and her four daughters, Grace Espinosa, 1; Allizon V. Espinosa, 3; Genesis A. Espinosa, 5; and Renata P. Espinosa, 6, the outlet reported.
The Cook County Medical Examiner's Office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
In the wake of the incident, family and community members alike have been left devastated.
"I was shocked," Yein Espinosa, the four girls' uncle, told WLS-TV. "They were awesome kids, full of happiness and playing around."
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"We know this can be traumatic for our personnel," Chief Anderson said in his statement, which noted that one firefighter sustained a minor knee injury and a police officer sustained a minor cut.
"We've offered additional resources to help our personnel during this time," Anderson continued. "We also want to thank our neighboring fire departments for their support in responding to this incident."
Des Plaines Mayor Matt Bogusz added: "This is a very sad day for the City of Des Plaines. This kind of tragedy touches the heart of every Des Plaines resident. The City and the Des Plaines community grieve with this family and offer our support in any way we can."
At this time, it is unclear how the fire initially broke out and if the home had functioning smoke detectors.
The Des Plaines Fire Department said they are conducting an investigation with the Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal and a regional task force under the City's mutual aid system.