Scene from the fire Sept. 8, 2014
ABC 7 screenshot

A tragic early-morning fire Monday took the lives of four children and left two adults in critical condition in Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The children, ages 6 to 16, were found on the third floor of the badly damaged building. According to the Tribune, the fire spread from an empty second-floor apartment and up a stairwell to the third floor, where the apartment's front door was open.

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"They couldn't get out," Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford told the Tribune.

The eldest child, Carliysia Clark, 16 years old, appeared to be shielding a younger child, Langford told reporters.

"She was on top of the child," he explained. The pair was found in a closet. The other two children were found in a bedroom. The younger children were identified as Eriana Smith, 6; Shamarion Clark, 11; and Carlvon Clark, 13.

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Their mother, Shamaya Coleman, and her boyfriend both jumped from the third floor, according to the Tribune, which reports that they are expected to survive.

According to neighbors, there was something wrong with the apartment's back door, an issue tthat Coleman often complained about. Residents of the building told the Tribune that the mother said the back door wouldn't open and had pointed out the issue to the landlord, but in the year that they lived in the building, it had never been fixed.

"She said it was messed up," Darlene Jones, who lives on the second floor of the 18-unit building, told the Tribune. "She couldn't use it right."

Other neighbors credited Jones with alerting the building about the spread of the fire after she was woken up by her dog.

According to the Tribune, reports showed that the building failed 23 of the 37 inspections conducted in the past nine years, including a June 9 check. Issues noted in the inspectors' reports include broken doors and windows, problems with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, water damage and broken furnaces. 

Read more at the Chicago Tribune.