4-Year-Old Girl Who Family Called Their 'Little Princess' Killed in Chicago House Fire
A Chicago family is mourning the loss of their 4-year-old daughter following a deadly house fire at a Gage Park home in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
J’Marie Hernandez was sleeping alone in a room toward the back of the house when the fire broke out around 4 a.m., family members told the Chicago Sun-Times. The flames completely engulfed the bedroom, and the young girl's aunt reportedly suffered burns to her arm trying to pull her out.
It wasn't until firefighters arrived at the scene at around 4:20 a.m. that J’Marie was rescued from the room. Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Walter Schroeder told the outlet that his deputies tried to resuscitate her, but she was pronounced dead after being rushed to Holy Cross Hospital. Nine other people were reportedly also in the home, but no one else was injured.
“It was a girl’s night out, all the cousins were just sleeping over and having fun,” Edgar Garcia, the girl’s uncle, told the Sun-Times of the evening. “My sister has five girls and she was with them watching movies and playing games.”
“She was a happy child who loved to sing and watch Disney movies, like Coco,” Garcia added. “She was a little princess that loved music and doing those TikTok dances.”
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Schroeder told the Sun-Times the building had fire and smoke detectors, but they were not functioning for unknown reasons. An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing, but preliminary reports suggest no foul play, he added.
The Chicago Fire Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
The home was owned by J'Marie's grandfather, though he had not been home for "several weeks" as he was recovering from COVID-19, according to the Sun-Times.
“He’s devastated. No grandparent wants to bury their grandchildren,” Garcia told the outlet. “We really don’t know how we should deal with this.”
A GoFundMe set up on behalf of J’Marie's family has so far raised more than $4,100.
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"In this tragic situation many people are offering their help," the page reads. "Our princess was taken from us and handed to God. Any help anyone wants to offer is appreciated. We will all miss our vibrant little girl."
The Chicago Fire Department is urging residents to regularly check and make sure their smoke detecters are working, as it could be a matter of life or death.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, three of every five home fire deaths in 2012-2016 resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or smoke alarms that were not working.