Authorities called it a “tremendous loss” for the community after two women, who were both mothers, died in a fire in Vernon Hills while the fire chief says it is too early to determine a cause.
The Vernon Hills Police Department and Countryside Fire Protection District responded around 3:15 a.m. Sunday to the 900 block of South Court of Shorewood in Vernon Hills.
Vernon Hills Police Department Public Information Officer Jeff Hemesath said a fire alarm was activated at a multi-unit apartment building.
A 911 call was soon made to dispatch while crews were responding.
The caller reported there was a fire in the building and people were possibly trapped, Hemesath said.
Firefighters arrived to find heavy flames showing from the three-story building, which contains six units.
Crews began searching for victims and located two adult victims.
Hemesath said one of the victims was found deceased.
The second victim was transported to Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville where they later died.
The fire was extinguished and the building was deemed uninhabitable.
Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said autopsies were performed Monday on both victims.
They were identified as Camille Lozano, 33, of Vernon Hills, and Polly Jensen, 39, of Vernon Hills.
Lozano and Jensen both died from thermal and inhalational injuries as a result of the fire, according to a preliminary autopsy, Banek said.
Vernon Hills Police Chief Patrick Kreis called the incident a “tremendous loss for the Vernon Hills community.”
Countryside Fire Protection District Chief Chuck Smith said the tragedy “deserves nothing short of a thorough and complete investigation.”
“It would be premature to comment on the cause and origin of the fire at this point, but investigators are actively working to determine that information,” Smith said.
Smith encouraged members of the community to review their home fire safety and evacuation plans.
Family members of Jensen said she was a mother of two children, a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old.
“She was the most gentle human, an extraordinarily strong person, and truly did everything she could to give her two daughters the best life ever,” the family said.
Jensen’s two children were unharmed in the fire because they were spending the weekend with their father.
“There are no words to describe what they are going through, and how much their lives changed today. Beyond losing their mother, who was their primary caregiver, they lost everything they owned and cherished. Our hearts are completely shattered,” the family added.
A GoFundMe account has raised over $18,000 for the woman’s two children.
An aunt of Lozano said on social media that she was “very distraught and saddened” that her niece died in a “terrible tragedy”
A GoFundMe account was also created for Lozano, who was a mother.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Countryside Fire Protection District, the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal and the Vernon Hills Police Department.
The American Red Cross was called to the scene to provide assistance to the nine displaced residents after the building was deemed uninhabitable.