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Springfield Woman, Four Children Perish In Fire

March 8, 1987

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) _ Fire spread though an apartment early Sunday, killing a 33-year-old woman and her three daughters while they slept and a nephew who tried to escape but collapsed in the kitchen, authorities said.

A fifth child escaped the blaze uninjured.

″I have to believe that had they had a smoke detector, it may have resulted in saving their lives,″ said city Fire Chief Tom Armstead.

Eleven-year-old Arizona Hoskins discovered the fire when she woke up to use the bathroom, said Sangamon County Coroner Norman Richter.

″When she got to the kitchen there was a pan on fire on the stove,″ the coroner said. ″She immediately left the apartment to use a neighbor’s phone, but the fire and smoke moved quickly.″

Flames were pouring out a window when firefighters arrived about 2:15 a.m.

The building was a two-story home that had been remodeled into at least five apartments. Residents of the other apartments either fled or were not at home, Armstead said.

″The search was difficult because the building is so compartmentalized; a lot of rooms just led to dead ends. We do know there were no other injuries,″ Armstead said.

The fire, contained to the single apartment, was extinguished within minutes, he said. The cause was under investigation.

The victims were identified as Gale Hoskins and her daughters Jamaica, 4, Algeria, 6, and Germany, 8, all found in two bedrooms, Richter said. The body of Ms. Hoskin’s nephew, Greg Spencer, 3, was found in the kitchen, just a few feet from the front door, he said.

Ms. Hoskins and Germany died of smoke inhalation, Richter said, while Jamaica, Algeria and the boy died of smoke inhalation and burns.

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