UPDATED 08/30/11 1:08 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Garbage that was exposed to an open flame is being blamed for an extra-alarm fire that ripped through two apartment buildings in Boystown over the weekend, but it remains unclear whether it was an accident or arson.
The Saturday afternoon fire at 841-49 and 851-59 W. Cornelia Ave. started in a pile of trash inside the building, and was caused by an open flame that ignited the trash, Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said Tuesday.
The finding by the Fire Department Office of Fire Investigations does not indicate whether the fire was accidental or the result of arson, he said.
Meanwhile, the Caribou Coffee shop down the block at Halsted Street and Cornelia Avenue is collecting donations for victims of the fire.
The office of Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) said a drop box is set up at the Caribou Coffee for supplies – including toiletries, clothing and personal items – and employees will also collect monetary donations. The alderman’s office asks neighbors to assist.
In the Tribune RedEye Monday afternoon, neighborhood resident Bridget Doyle reported that items, and cash, will be passed on to the Salvation Army, which has a list of fire victims.
The fire broke out in the middle of the afternoon Saturday in a rear wooden stairway shared by the two apartment buildings. More than 100 people were displaced.
The first calls about the fire were around 1:45 p.m., and about an hour later, the fire had been upgraded to a 3-11 alarm, MacGregor said Saturday.
Fire officials said the flames spread up the stairway, into the third floor apartments and from there to the space between the ceiling and roof, making the fire more difficult to extinguish.
The buildings lacked any rear exit aside from the area near the stairway. As a result, firefighters had to go around the block if moved from front to back, instead of through the building, wearing them out more quickly and prompting the 3-11 alarm.
Residents were able to escape without injury. But a firefighter was treated for a shoulder injury at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.
Doyle reported that she had heard some residents had also lost their pets to the fire.
The offices of Grab Magazine, a local gay publication, were also destroyed in the fire, the magazine confirmed on its Twitter feed.
The Windy City Times reported that Grab publisher Stacy Bridges operated and published the magazine from his home.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.