1 Critically Injured In Southwest Side Fire
UPDATED 12/20/10 11:01 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Several businesses and about a half dozen apartments were destroyed overnight in an extra alarm blaze on the Southwest Side.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, one man is in critical condition, and several others have no home, after the blaze in the 2700 block of West 59th Street.
The fire was reported at 1:38 a.m., and was raised to a 2-11 alarm. The fire ended up burning for more than an hour and 20 minutes.
By 5 a.m., fire crews were still putting out hotspots at the scene.
It started in a first floor business and quickly spread to the upstairs residences.
The first floor of the three-story building measuring 150- by 150-feet, was occupied by a barbershop, a beauty salon and a Hispanic advocacy organization, while the second and third floors were apartment units.
Investigators believe a couch in the back of the first floor barbershop caught fire after a heat source caused it to ignite. It’s not exactly clear what that heat source was.
There was a man sleeping in the shop at the time. He escaped but the building couldn’t be saved.
A resident of a burned out apartment complex salvages Christmas presents that weren’t destroyed when the building went up in flames overnight.
“I had presents in there but they’re gone, too,” said Stanley Sterczek. “Everything’s destroyed.”
Sterczek was asleep when the flames ripped through the three-flat at 59th just off of California. He was awakened by a screaming neighbor.
“I heard somebody screaming through the hallways, and the fire alarm was on when I woke up. The whole place was consumed in smoke,” he said.
Sterczek had to be rescued by firefighters who reached his third floor apartment by ladder.
“The firemen did an excellent job. If not, I would have been dead,” Sterczek said. “They saved my life.”
Another man had to be rescued with the ladder truck and was taken to Holy Cross Hospital in critical condition, after suffering smoke inhalation.
Neighbors saw some puppies trapped on a roof and came to their aid by using a fence in order to reach the frightened canines.
A woman who lives in the building, which is located at the corner of 59th Street and Fairfield Avenue, spoke with CBS 2.
“All that I know is my husband woke up and said, ‘Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go outside,” said Maria Rodriguez, “and I told him, ‘What happened?’ and I go to the closet, and they say, ‘Don’t take nothing,’ and I said, ‘What about my jacket, what about my shoes,’ and he said, ‘No, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!’ because the smoke, it was in the apartment already.”
Rodriguez says she and her husband escaped by dashing through the smoke.
“You can’t breathe. You put your hands like this and go downstairs,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez was back in her apartment today. And while she’s without a home five days before Christmas, she wasn’t complaining.
“I’m alive. I’m asking for nothing more for Christmas,” she said. “It’s a big gift to be alive.”
A quick survey of the damage inside shows why she feels that way. The damage on each floor is widespread and devastating. With holes in the roof and walls, every unit in the complex is heavily damaged.
And while Rodriguez and the others are happy to have survived the extra alarm blaze, the harsh reality of being suddenly homeless was tough to take.
“Everything is just a catastrophe. Everything is gone,” Sterczek said.
At least half a dozen people had to be evacuated from the apartment building. They are working with the Department of Human Services to find temporary shelter.
The injured man is now in serious condition at the hospital.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli and the Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.