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2 boys out of hospital, dad still ‘critical’ after Hammond fire

Updated: January 11, 2014 9:54PM

Two boys who survived a deadly fire Wednesday night at their home in Hammond, Ind., were released Saturday from Stroger Hospital in Chicago, but their father, badly burned, remained in the burn unit there in critical condition.

The fire killed three children, including a 7-month-old boy.

The two who survived are 2 and 6 years old. They apparently were pulled to safety by the father, 27-year-old Andre Young, according to Hammond Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Margraf, who said the fire appears to have been sparked by a propane-fueled space heater.

He said the children’s mother wasn’t at home at the time of the fire, which claimed the lives of 7-month-old Jayden Young, his 3-year-old sister Alexia Young and their 4-year-old brother Dasani Young.

Jasmin Rice, who lives in an upstairs apartment with her family, said that as they ran for safety, they saw Andre Young run out of the downstairs apartment.

“He was on fire,” Rice said.

Her boyfriend started trying to knock down the front door, but flames came shooting out.

“The smoke, the flames — everything happened so fast,” Rice said.

Another neighbor, Nicki Flick, said the Young family had lived there at least since last spring but that as early as last summer was living without electricity. Flick had heard a noise coming from the house and when she asked, the mother said the noise was a generator they were using because they didn’t have money for electricity.

“She said, ‘Well, it’s better than not having any lights,’ ” Flick said.

The home had lacked electrical service, running water and gas for at least six months and was close to being deemed uninhabitable because of housing code violations, a city official said. Hammond requires residences to have water service to be found habitable.

The house would have been found uninhabitable if the city had been able to make an inspection, as it had tried to do, City Attorney Kristina Kantar said. A court hearing on the case was scheduled for Jan. 16.

“Had this inspection been ordered last Thursday by the court, the property would have been marked uninhabitable by code,” Kantar said. “There were horrible consequences of this delay.”

Code enforcement officials have to go inside a residence and take photographs to document violations, Kantar said. But notice has to be given to the listed owner of the home before such an inspection occurs. The owner, Real Estate Property Solutions of Ind. LLC, acquired the home in 2012.

The home had been cited for code violations in 2009 and 2012. Court records show Hammond City Court sent notices to appear in court starting last May, but the company’s attorney, Christian Bartholomew, said in a court filing that the owner had not received notice until Sept. 20 due an unrecorded deed and that it needed more time to investigate the violations. Several motions to continue the court case had been granted in recent months.

Northern Indiana Public Service Co. disconnected electrical service because of nonpayment on March 20 and disconnected the gas for nonpayment on April 8, utility spokesman Nick Meyer said.

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