Naperville fire victim recalled for her humor, love of son

<p>108 Douglas Ave. in Naperville.  |  Sun staff</p>

108 Douglas Ave. in Naperville.  |  Sun staff

Daniel Armas and A.G. Bankole said while they didn’t know Cariene Jones all that well, they did know two important things about her: her ability to make others laugh, and her devotion to her son, their friend.

The two Naperville North High School sophomores stood somberly Friday afternoon at the front door of the apartment building at 108 Douglas Ave., where Jones lived with her son, varsity basketball player Jelani McClain.

Jones, 39, was killed when a fire broke out late Thursday night in the three-story building, which sits opposite Washington Junior High School. McClain was reportedly away from home at the time of the blaze.

Armas said he believed Jones and McClain had moved to Naperville about 18 months ago from the Downers Grove area.

“She was really nice, always making people laugh,” Armas said of Jones. “And she was very supportive of her son” and his dedication to the Naperville North Huskies basketball team, he said. Bankole echoed Armas’ sentiments, saying he simply remembered Jones as being “very nice.”

Tenants of other apartments who found themselves displaced by the blaze spent much of Friday moving their belongings to cars and vans, while members of a restoration and cleaning crew went about their business inside the building. The handful of residents who were approached by a Sun reporter said they did not know Jones well.

Chief Deputy DuPage County Coroner Charlie Dastych formally confirmed Jones had died in the fire.

“The investigation is still pending” into the cause of Jones’ death, Dastych said early Friday afternoon. “Preliminarily, there are no indications of suspicious circumstances” in the case, he said.

Naperville Fire Department investigators are continuing to seek the source and cause of the blaze, which broke out about 11:33 p.m. Thursday. Jones and her son lived in one of the second-floor units of the building, located just a few blocks north of downtown Naperville.

Bureau Chief Kevin Lyne said firefighters arrived on the scene within four minutes of receiving the initial 911 call. Other residents reported the presence of fire and smoke in the building, Lyne said early Friday in a release.

While searching the building, firefighters found an “unconscious and unresponsive victim” in one of the second-floor apartments, Lyne said. Paramedics took that person, now identified as Jones, to Edward Hospital in Naperville, where Lyne said efforts to revive her proved unsuccessful.

Firefighters had the blaze under control within 10 minutes of their arrival, Lyne said. The building’s second and third floors and attic suffered fire, smoke and water damage that Lyne estimated at $100,000.

An inspector from Naperville’s Transportation, Engineering and Development Group later deemed two of the units unfit for occupancy until repairs can be made.

Naperville police and members of the city’s Emergency Management Agency assisted firefighters on the scene, as did representatives of the DuPage County Fire Investigation Task Force and the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Firefighters from several area fire protection districts and departments provided coverage at Naperville’s fire stations during the emergency. Units from the Lisle-Woodridge and Wheaton agencies responded to two additional emergencies in Naperville while providing that coverage.

Deputy Naperville Fire Chief Rick Sander did not immediately respond to a telephone message left late Friday afternoon at his office, which sought additional or updated information about the blaze.