UPDATED 06/26/12 8:56 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Firefighters remained on the scene early Tuesday, after flames roared through three homes in the North Center neighborhood, near the busy junction of Lincoln and Damen avenues and Irving Park Road.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the fire broke out shortly after 1 a.m. in the 1900 block of West Larchmont Avenue – just east of Lincoln Avenue – and spread quickly to engulf the three residential buildings.

The response was raised to a 3-11 alarm soon after fire crews arrived. Nearly 200 firefighters responded.

Lincoln Avenue was shut down as firefighters battled the blaze, and had just reopened as of 5 a.m.

Meanwhile, several people were forced out of their homes, but everyone got out safely.

Neighbors say the building where the fire started was vacant and under construction.

Firefighters attacked the flames from the ground and from above with their ladders. It took about an hour to knock the fire down.

Three other homes on the block were evacuated. One neighbor risked his life to get others out.

“We jumped the gate, went inside. We had two seniors inside, and one of them came from the back so we could come catch him from the back to make sure he was out of that building,” said the neighbor, Ralph. “The heat was so intense – the fire was just too much – but we made it happen.”

The blaze was a challenge for firefighters to battle.

“The roof and the second floor collapsed in, and we couldn’t go inside the building to put it out,” said Fire Department Special Operations Chief Michael Fox, “and also, exposed buildings on each side of the fire, which did catch on fire, but quick action by the Fire Department – they got in and they stopped it.”

Seven adults and three children were displaced by the fire, but the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago were on the scene, providing basic needs such as food and shelter.

Larchmont Avenue runs for about two blocks between Irving Park Road and Byron Street, from Lincoln Avenue on the west to Ravenswood Avenue on the east. Many of the frame houses and two-flats on the block where the fire broke out date from the 1890s.

The Fire Department says the cause of the fire remains under investigation.