CALUMET CITY, Ill. (STMW) — A Calumet City firefighter was injured during a suspicious extra-alarm blaze early Saturday in the south suburb.

At 2:45 a.m. neighbors saw smoke coming from an older 2-story brick apartment building at 248 Waltham St. and called 911. Crews rushed to the scene and advanced into the building but no one was inside, according to Calumet City Fire Dpty. Chief Rich Banske.

“When the first units got there, they had heavy smoke coming out of the upper floor and then from the roof line,’’ Banske said.

Firefighters found the fire may have stared in the rear of the building, which has three units including a garden apartment, near a stairwell on the upper level.

When the fire began raging above the firefighters and into its flat roof, they briefly had to get out of the building and fight it defensively, from outside, the deputy chief said. It spread to an attic or loft area also.

“That whole top floor is gutted from fire and from us tearing it apart looking for the fire,’’ Banske said.

They went back inside and their response was elevated to a second alarm about 3:30 a.m. because they needed assistance from multiple neighboring departments.

Banske said one Calumet City firefighter was on a ladder when it moved and he caught his foot in the rungs. His foot was broken and he was taken to Saint Margaret Mercy Healthcare Centers in Hammond, Ind. but as of 9 a.m. he is at home, resting. No other injures occurred.

The other floors had smoke and water damage and all the windows on the second floor had to be broken out. There were no scorch marks outside the windows because the flames did reach outside, according to Banske.

The blaze may have been caused by squatters, but authorities are investigating it as suspicious because no one was inside the building and there was no power to the structure, Banske.

“They (squatters) could have had a small fire going to keep warm and it got away from them,’’ Banske said.

About 45 firefighters battled the blaze, and had it under control by 5 a.m.

No building code violations were found and it did not spread to any other buildings.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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