CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM NEWSRADIO) — Firefighters rescued a woman who was trapped by an early morning fire at an apartment building in the East Chatham neighborhood.
Two police officers suffered minor injuries when they rushed into the building to help other people get out, and one other man was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
Chicago Fire Department District Chief Dan Cunningham said the first call of the fire came in around 5 a.m. from a three-story building near 79th and Langley. The building has apartments on the second and third floors, and a barber shop and beauty salon on the first floor.
Two police officers were the first to arrive on scene, and they went inside the building to help residents get out. A department spokesperson said both officers were taken to a hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, and were released later Thursday morning.
When firefighters arrived, most of the people who live in the building already had evacuated, but one woman had to be rescued from her third floor window.
Cheryl Stewart said she was asleep in her third-floor apartment when the fire started. She heard smoke alarms and said smoke was pouring under her door.
“The whole hallway was full of smoke, and I said ‘oh my God, how am I going to get out?'” she said.
Stewart said she was thinking about jumping out her window to escape, but she called 911, and they told her to go out on her ledge.
“I was on the ledge waiting, screaming for somebody to come and help me, and all of a sudden people started coming, and I was just screaming, and it was so much smoke. I couldn’t breathe, and I was like, ‘Please help me.’ I thought I was going to die,” she said. “You do not know what it’s like to be trapped somewhere, and then there’s no way out. You’re just there.”
When firefighters arrived, they set up a ladder to get her down from the window.
“I was so happy. I thank them so much for getting me down. That was like the most terrifying thing in my life. Oh my God,” Stewart said.
Before firefighters arrived, another resident knocked on doors, waking everyone up. Residents said Willy Cook was a hero.
“I’m not a hero, I just knocked on the door,” he said.
Cunningham said, while firefighters were attacking the flames inside the building, there was a “very serious collapse” between the first and second floors, prompting crews to evacuate the building, and fight the fire from a defensive position.
Due to the extreme cold, crews brought in a warming bus for the people who evacuated the building.
The fire eventually was raised to a 2-11 alarm, bringing in extra crews. The fire was extinguished by about 6:45 a.m.
In addition to the two police officers who were hurt, another man who was injured in the fire was taken to the hospital for treatment. His injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.
The Fire Department said a preliminary finding determined the fire started on the second floor, and was caused by an electrical accident.
At least 12 people were left temporarily homeless due to the fire, according to Cunningham.