CHICAGO (CBS) — One person was killed after a fire tore through an apartment building Sunday in Northwest suburban Bensenville.
Firefighters from the Bensenville Fire Protection District and Bensenville police responded to the blaze at 361 Marshall Road around 6:15 a.m., Chief Michael Spain said.
The building is uninhabitable, CBS 2’s Sandra Torres reports, and dozens are now displaced.
“I thought I was dreaming. I looked outside, smelled smoke, grabbed my daughter, ran downstairs, came out, heard a huge boom and the apartment exploded,” said Gena Lovergine, who is among the 35 residents who are forced to leave their homes.
Fire officials say they believe the fire started in the corner unit on the third floor of the 18-unit building.
Lovergine, who has a 7-year-old daughter, lost everything in the fire. However, firefighters were fortunately able to recover her engagement ring, which was found underneath the rubble.
“It’s all I have left from my father, who passed away when I was eight,” she said. “This is the diamond I gave my mother. Everything else from him was in that apartment, and this is the one thing I needed.”
The Red Cross is assisting those who are displaced. Seven members of their Disaster Action Team arrived on scene to provide disaster assistance, which included shelter, food, clothing and medication.
“The Red Cross will continue to work with the tenants impacted, as well as with the Bensenville Fire Department on immediate needs, including emotional support for the residents and the community,” the organization said in a news release.
Additionally, according to residents, the management company, Franklin Properties, is also trying to help residents find a place to live.
The Lovergine family set up a GoFundMe page after the fire, which has already raised nearly $3,000. Another family who lived in the apartment building also set up a GoFundMe page. “The flames traveled into all the units and took the little home we built together, along with all of our family heirlooms. All we have is the clothing we were wearing and the most important thing of all — our lives,” they said on their page.
The victim who died in the blaze has been identified as 64-year-old Steven M. Nelson, a Bensenville resident. Preliminary cause of death is consistent with natural causes.
A total of 26 fire departments were called to assist with control of the fire and for man power. The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the DuPage fire investigation task force.