Metro-East News

Washington Park family loses house in fire, but mom is 'just thankful they're alive'

Family loses everything in house fire

Mother and grandmother Latitia Williams describes her and her family’s escape from the burning house in Washington Park, IL. The family now needs help recovering.
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Mother and grandmother Latitia Williams describes her and her family’s escape from the burning house in Washington Park, IL. The family now needs help recovering.

A Washington Park family's house burned down in a fire Sunday night, leaving a family of four without a home.

Letitia Williams, her son and her two 6-year-old grandchildren were watching cartoons around 4 p.m. Sunday when she fell asleep. She woke up to the smell of smoke.

Williams said her 23-year-old son, Timothy Burch, lifted up the mattress they were on and flames leapt up toward them.

"It just went crazy," she said Monday.

The four made it safely out of the house on North 59th Street and called 911. Williams said the fire department had a problem getting water to their hose and by the time another truck arrived to help, the house was a total loss.

Williams said that the family's two kittens, Spiderman and Batman, both died in the fire.

Despite losing their pets and all of their belongings in the fire, Williams said she is more thankful than anything.

"All this materialistic stuff, I can replace it. But my grandkids, and myself, we can't be replaced," she said. "So I'm just glad I got them out of the house — and my son — and we got out of the house safely. I'm thankful. I really am. I'm breathing; they're breathing. We just took a loss as far as a living space, but I can buy another house; I can buy more furniture."

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Latitia Williams talks Monday about her family's escape from the fire that destroyed their Washington Park home. The remains of the burned home are shown in the background. Steve Nagy

The family is staying across the street with Williams' mother, Antonia Ingram, for the time being. Williams is searching for another house, which she said she's trying to see as an opportunity rather than a burden.

"I put on my Facebook page, I know that I lost my house and everything to a fire that destroyed everything but don't feel sorry for us. Just help me thank God that me and the grandkids got out," she said. "I can't look sad and make my boys feel sad. I got to look at it like maybe it wasn't for us to live like this; maybe we can do something different."

Williams said she thinks one of her grandsons, which she took custody of from the Department of Child and Family Services two years ago, accidentally started the fire.

"I don't think he processed what he did. I don't know what he went through before I got him," she said. "And then I get a call (from DCFS) that asks 'Do you still wanna keep him?' Yeah, that's my grandbaby."

Washington Park Fire Department Chief Sharon Davis said investigators confirmed the child accidentally started the fire when he was playing with a wire.

She said the family is trying to replace her grandsons' clothes and shoes, all of which burnt in the fire.

Williams said if anyone wants to donate clothes, her grandsons wear shoes sizes 13 and one and both wear a size 8 in shirt and pants.

Mostly, however, she is looking for a new home.

In order to keep the boys in the same school and stay close to her family, Williams is looking for a house to rent in East St. Louis or Washington Park, where she has lived her entire life.

“We just need anything to start over; all the big things I can manage," she said. ""I think about it and it could have been worse."

Williams said that if anyone wants to donate or contact her, they can reach her at either 618-580-6677 or 618-210-9077

Kaley Johnson: 618-239-2526, @KaleyJohnson6