CHICAGO (CBS)–An apartment building blaze that broke out Friday morning on 79th and Phillips in Chicago’s South Chicago neighborhood has displaced up to 50 people, fire officials said.
On Friday afternoon the Chicago Fire Department said the fire’s origin was suspicious and turned over the investigation to the Chicago Police Department.
About two dozen people were being treated at a nearby McDonald’s, where a nursing station was set up.
Tempers flared outside in the McDonald’s parking lot, where a group of people–some wearing pajamas–were seen yelling at each other.
Fire officials say a fire was put out earlier Friday morning before another fire started around 6:30 a.m.
“Upon arrival, companies found occupants hanging out of the windows, and (rescue efforts) immediately started,” said Deputy Commander Richard Ford.
Ford said 24 people were rescued.
Six people, including one firefighter and two children, have been hospitalized. The firefighter is in good condition, according to fire officials. One of the children was in serious condition and was being treated for smoke inhalation. The other child’s condition was unknown, but fire officials said the child’s condition was less serious than the first.
The office of fire investigation and the police departments bomb and Arson unit were both on scene on Friday morning and were trying to figure out whether the fire was set deliberately.
A man who lives in one of the apartments describes being caught in heavy smoke.
“The smoke was trapping us in the front room (so) we couldn’t see anything,” Christian Washington said. “It was very scary–I thought I was going to lose my life if I’m being honest with you.”
A man told CBS 2 he caught a baby thrown from a window in his jacket, but he declined to go on camera.
Standing in the McDonald’s parking lot with other people who escaped the fire, Demetrius Simpson said he was scared.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Simpson said.
Jesse Stringer was driving by when he said he saw people hanging out of windows. He pulled over and sprang into action, repeatedly kicking down doors and bringing people outside.
He helped rescue about eight people.
“I saw kids hanging out the window and I saw a building burning, and my body just acted,” Stringer said. “It was so hot, I didn’t think I could do it–I ran down the stairs–I had to gather…and then run back there and kick again. I had to build it up–it was hard.”
The Red Cross is now assisting the displaced residents.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli was at the scene Friday morning.