CBS Chicago / YouTube | Inset: WNDU / YouTube

A Christian father from South Bend, Indiana, was left devastated after five of his six children died after a massive fire erupted at his home. Elijah Leciano, a neighbor and friend, told CBS Chicago, “I went and found him at the hospital, and he was in shock. When I went with him to identify his children, which is hard, prayed over them and just told him, ‘If you need something, call me.’”

statement from the South Bend Fire Department said they received calls about a residential fire at 222 North LaPorte Ave. in the “early evening hours.” When firefighters got to the home, flames had already engulfed both the first and second floors. The statement said, “[Firefighters] successfully managed to suppress a significant portion of the fire on the first floor before moving to the second floor, where multiple victims were reported to be trapped.” They were able to rescue two individuals but not the five children.

The statement continued, “In total, six victims were extracted from the fire. Tragically, five of these individuals, all children, would later be pronounced deceased. One survivor was urgently transported to Memorial Hospital and later airlifted to a specialized pediatric burn center in Indianapolis for further treatment.” Fire Chief Carl Buchanon said at a press conference that Smith’s children ranged in age from 17 months to 11 years old. The 11-year-old is hospitalized.

An adult in the home also reportedly escaped the fire with minor injuries, while a firefighter was treated at a hospital and released after he fell through the second floor, Buchanon said. Though authorities have not released the names of the children, Leciano identified the deceased children in a GoFundMe campaign as Daveta, Demetris, Dean Tey, Deangelo, and Faith Smith. Their father is identified as David Smith, whom Leciano calls “my brother in Christ.”

Leciano wrote in the campaign seeking to raise $30,000, “Hello, friends and family. I’m reaching out this afternoon to ask for your support for my brother in Christ, David Smith. He has lost the most valuable thing any of us could. His children due to a tragedy no one would expect.” The child who was hospitalized was identified as Angel Smith. Leciano said, “Our hope is to raise enough money to put his babies to rest in a beautiful place. Also, to eliminate any medical bills that will arise out of the treatment, Angel Smith will receive, and any future surger[ies] she [may] need to aid in her recovery from severe burns.”

He continued, “Please find it in your hearts to help, if possible; David needs [c]lothes, shoes, hygienes (sic), and a new vehicle because his truck was lost due to the fire as well. He is in need of a huge blessing, be that blessing today and donate.” While the cause of the fire is still being investigated, Buchanon urged locals in need of a smoke alarm to contact the Red Cross to get the devices for free.

“As we mourn the lives lost, we also extend our deepest sympathies to the families affected by this tragedy. The South Bend Fire Department is committed to providing support to these families during this difficult time and is working closely with local & State authorities to investigate the cause of the fire,” the statement from the South Bend Fire Department said.

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