McHENRY – Last summer, a neighbor gave little Dayana Garcia a new bicycle.
Today, the memory of the smile that gift brought to her face is all that neighbors have to remember after the young girl died Friday morning in a house fire.
She was 12 years old.
Garcia was inside her family’s home in the Lakeland Park subdivision of McHenry when the fire broke out. Her parents and three brothers managed to escape through what witnesses described as a leap from the home’s second-story windows.
An autopsy revealed that Garcia died of smoke inhalation.
She was remembered fondly by neighbors and those at Parkland Middle School, where she was a seventh-grader.
“Dayana was a wonderful young lady who was well-liked by the entire Parkland staff and students,” Principal Mike Adams said in an email to the Northwest Herald. “This is a sad day for her family as well as our entire school family.”
Counseling was being offered Friday at the school, he said.
When emergency crews arrived at the 4510 Parkway Ave. home at 1:20 a.m., it was fully engulfed in flames, fire officials said. The McHenry Township Fire Protection District called for assistance from several area fire departments, and it took several hours to extinguish the blaze.
Garcia was found dead inside once the fire was under control, police said.
Dana Rolewski lives across the street from the Garcias’ split-level home. She was returning to her neighborhood early Friday when a police barricade stopped her from entering her street. She parked nearby and could see the flames several streets over, she said.
She remembered Garcia as a motherly figure to her brothers – two were older than she and one was younger, Rolewski said.
“Dayana didn’t say much, but she was so sweet,” she said. “From what I knew and what I saw, she was a total sweetheart.”
Rolewski and others are collecting donations for the family.
“They’re a really nice family,” she said. “They’re really great people.”
There were no signs of foul play, and the fire is considered accidental. It will take several days for the investigation to determine the cause and origin of the blaze.
The house was destroyed and will likely have to be torn down, McHenry Township Fire Protection District Chief Tony Huemann said. The home had at least one smoke detector, but it is unknown whether it went off during the fire.
The American Red Cross has set the surviving family up with temporary shelter at a local hotel.
The Cary, Wonder Lake, Richmond, Fox Lake and Woodstock fire departments also assisted with the incident.
• Reporters Lawerence Synett and Jim Dallke contributed to this article.