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updated: 12/25/2011 5:57 PM

Mt. Prospect provides gifts for 2 girls rescued from fire

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  • Lorena Marquez surveys the damage in her second-floor apartment.

    Lorena Marquez surveys the damage in her second-floor apartment.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer

  • Lorena Marquez, left, chats with a friend from work, Cornell Jackson, outside her apartment on the second floor.

    Lorena Marquez, left, chats with a friend from work, Cornell Jackson, outside her apartment on the second floor.
    Scott Sanders | Staff Photographer


When Lorena Marquez was awakened Christmas morning, it was not by any of her four children asking to see what Santa had brought. Instead, it was by her landlord on the phone asking if her apartment was on fire.

Marquez's apartment wasn't, but the third-floor unit directly above hers was.

The fire, on the 300 block of Hawthorn Circle in Mount Prospect, is under investigation, although firefighters think it may have started in the living room and suspect that electronics may have been involved.

Mount Prospect firefighters rescued a woman and two children from that unit who retreated to a bedroom when the fire started and shut the door. Firefighters threw up a ladder and rescued the family through a bedroom window.

"It was contained to one apartment, fortunately," said fire Lt. Kevin Wilson. "It wasn't spreading."

Mount Prospect was able to provide toys for the two girls whose Christmas presents went up in flames, said Nancy Morgan, human services director.

"All of their toys were destroyed," she said. "So we were able to replace them -- I'm sure not exactly the same as what Mom and Dad bought, but at least they were able to have something."

By 8 a.m., the 7-year-old and 12-year-old had been given stuffed animals and Barbie dolls, left over toys from the Toys for Kids program run by the fire department with help from human services, police and public works.

The fire, which started around 3:50 a.m. displaced about 10 people from the complex.

The human services department and the Red Cross are assisting the families find temporary lodging, too.

When firefighters arrived, there was smoke in the stairwell, it was hard to see and the doors were hot to the touch.

Marquez, meanwhile, wasn't even at home when she got her landlord's call. She and her four children were spending the night with her cousin in Streamwood.

Marquez raced home to Mount Prospect. When she got there and saw the damage to her apartment, she almost passed out.

"I couldn't handle looking at it," she said. There was no fire, but the water damage from fighting the fire one floor above had destroyed her ceiling and damaged many of her family's possessions.

The fire was put out around 4:10 a.m. with help from the Des Plaines Fire Department.

"Once they just got the hose up there, they just squirted it, and it was out," Wilson said. "It didn't spread. So that's a good thing on Christmas."

No one required hospitalization after being checked out in the ambulance.

"That's truly the silver lining in this horrible story," Morgan said.

Four social workers, including two fluent in the family's native Spanish, provided the displaced family a $100 Visa card, information about how to remove smoke from clothes and $30 gift cards to Subway and Walmart. The Red Cross also was on hand to help with finding housing, she said.

Marquez, meanwhile, is grateful to the fire department because they covered up her Christmas tree to avoid damaging it. She says it will probably be at least a week before she, her husband, and their four children, ages 3, 4, 9, and 17, can move back in.

As she left the building, she could still manage a cheerful "Merry Christmas!"

• Daily Herald staff writer Marie Wilson contributed to this report.

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