Three-year-old dies in Champaign fire

Three-year-old dies in Champaign fire

CHAMPAIGN – A 3-year-old Champaign boy died Monday evening in a fire at 1313 Hedge Road, Champaign, a residential neighborhood directly north of Kraft Foods.

Champaign Fire Deputy Chief Tim Wild said the child was found in a closet in a bedroom of the single-story home. His mother and two siblings escaped the fire that heavily damaged the home.

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup identified the victim as Demetrius D. Lenard, son of Schonell Scott of Champaign and Demetrius M. Lenard of Springfield.

Wild said the cause of the fire is under investigation. It was contained to the room where the child was located. Smoke and heat damage were heavy throughout the rest of the home, which Wild estimated to be about 1,000 square feet.

Firefighters were called at 8:45 p.m. and arrived in three minutes.

"They found heavy smoke," Wild said, adding the mother, a 6-year-old and an 8-month-old child were in the yard. They were able to let firefighters know the 3-year-old was still inside. Firefighters put the fire out quickly.

"There was a smoke detector in the house. The mother said the 6-year-old came out (of the bedroom) and said there was a fire. The mother was able to get the 6-year-old and the 8-month-old out but was not successful in finding the 3-year-old," Wild said.

The boy was pronounced dead at 9:25 p.m. An autopsy will be conducted.

Wild said this morning that the fire remains under investigation by fire and police investigators. He said the help of the police did not imply anything sinister, just that they lend additional skills to the investigative process.

Damage to the house was estimated at $30,000, and the value of contents was put at $10,000.

Firefighter Ron Sutherland was taken to Carle Hospital complaining of back pain. He was checked out and released. Another firefighter suffered a cut at the scene and was treated there.

Wild said the family was assisted by the city's Emergency Services Support team and the American Red Cross. Wild said he also believed they have other family in the area.

Ed Hawkes of Champaign owns the home and said he's rented it to the woman for a couple of years. He said the Housing Authority of Champaign County inspects the property annually and just last week declared it had passed its latest inspection.

Hawkes said he was at the scene until early this morning and had someone board up the house. He said it's too early to know if the house can be repaired. It was insured.

Wild said the fact that the boy was found in a closet points to the fact that families need to have an escape plan for emergencies and to practice it.

"The natural thing seems to be, from our past experience, for small children to hide in a closet or crawl under a bed. That's obviously something you cannot do. When you've practiced that in a fire you get out of the house, then that's what you'll do in the actual emergency," Wild said. "Hopefully, somehow it registers (with even young children)."

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