HAMMOND, Ind. - The Hammond home where a fire killed three young siblings and critically injured their father was close to being deemed uninhabitable because of housing code violations, a city official said.
The home had lacked electrical service, running water and gas for at least six months, the Post-Tribune reported in a story published Saturday. Hammond, in northwestern Indiana, 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 told the newspaper. 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. There were horrible consequences of this delay," Kantar said.
Fire investigators believe a propane-fueled space heater started the fire Wednesday night. The bodies of 7-month-old Jayden Young, 4-year-old Dasani Young and 3-year-old Alexia Young were found in the living room.
Code enforcement officials must go inside a residence and take photographs to document violations, Kantar said. However, notice must be provided 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 various notices to appear beginning in May, but a filing by the company's attorney, Christian Bartholomew, stated 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 were granted in recent months.
"Unfortunately, I cannot provide any further information at this time, as I am still investigating the incident," Bartholomew said in an email to the newspaper.
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.
The father of the three children, Andre Young, 27, and two other sons, ages 6 and 2, remained hospitalized at Stroger Hospital in Chicago. Hammond Fire Department chief fire inspector Michael Opinker said all are expected to recover. Opinker said earlier this week that the children's mother was not home at the time of the fire.
Hammond Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Margraf said Young and the two surviving boys were found in snow outside the home; it appeared Young had pulled the children to safety.