A 3-11 alarm blaze in a five-story condominium building in the Morgan Park neighborhood this afternoon caused the upper floors of the building to collapse and left more than 60 people homeless tonight. The fire began in the four-plus-one style building at 2030 W. 111th St. about 2:20 p.m. It was raised to a 2-11 alarm at 2:42 p.m. and to a 3-11 alarm about 3 p.m. About 64 people were displaced by the fire, officials said.
An EMS Plan 1, which sends six ambulances to the scene, also was called for the fire. Four people at the building were treated on the scene, but did not need to be taken to the hospital, according to the Chicago Fire Department's media office.
The fire was declared under control at 5:21 p.m., and the EMS Plan 1 secured was secured by about 5:45 p.m.
Firefighters were unable to do a unit-to-unit search of the building because parts of the building's fifth and fourth floor were collapsed into the third floor, said Chicago Deputy Fire Cmsr. of Operation John McNicholas
"What we're looking at right now is a shell of a building," McNicholas said about 4:30 p.m. "It's too dangerous for the firefighters to enter."
Fire officials were working with building management to try to get a head count for the number of residents for the 34-unit building, which had 32 units occupied, officials said. Firefighters had not been told by anyone that someone was missing, McNichals said.
When the first fire company arrived, flames were shooting from a third-floor window on the east side of the building, but firefighters also found fire in the walls on the first and second floors, said Chicago Fire Department spokeswoman Meg Ahlheim. In total, about 120 fire personnel and 40 pieces of fire equipment were dispatched to the fire, she said.
Fire officials called a Mayday alert for a lost firefighter about the time the 2-11 alarm was called, but the alert was quickly cancelled when the firefighter was located unharmed, Ahleim said. Other members of his company apparently had lost track of the firefighter, but he was not trapped, she said.
Dazed residents forced out of the building huddled outside in near-freezing temperatures, and later took refuge inside a public library next door to commiserate and keep warm.
Ted Wyatt said he was inside his second-floor apartment when the fire started, but he noticed nothing amiss until he heard someone calling out.
"People were going through the hallways, yelling, 'Fire!'" said Wyatt, 58.
Once he got into the hallways, Wyatt said he could smell the smoke. Wyatt added that his unit does have a working smoke alarm but it did not go off.
"It's something you just don't expect but it's something we all have to accept and deal with," said Otis Wilder, 62, who lives on the third floor.
Several residents said that each unit and the hallways are equipped with working smoke detectors. Wilder said that he was inside his apartment when he heard smoke alarms going off.
"I figured that someone had burned something," said Wilder, 62. "I didn't know it was that serious."
Soon after, Wilder said he heard people running from the building, yelling that there was a fire. He, too, got out unharmed.
"Smoke was everywhere, especially when I got to the first floor," Wilder said.
Roddric Sims, who also lives on the third floor, said that he smelled smoke and heard alarms going off. He then went into his 7-year-old son's bedroom to look the window, and saw black smoke coming out of a vent.
Sims said he tried to stay calm as he directed his son to get dressed. The pair went down a smoke-filled hallway and got out of the building unharmed.
Later in the evening, Sims returned to the building and gazed up at the charred, blown-out windows visible from the street.
"There's nothing like standing outside, seeing flames come out of your own unit," said Sims, 41. "That's when I knew it was going to be a total loss."
One woman, who declined to give her name, said that she was asleep in her fourth-floor apartment and thought that she was dreaming when she heard someone knocking on her door to say that there was a fire. The smell later woke her, she said, and she soon saw smoke oozing under her door. She got out via one of the emergency stairwell.
"It's still very surreal," the woman said, shaking from the cold. "Watching them put water through the windows, you feel so helpless."
By about 3:45 p.m., the five-story brick Terrace Place West Condominiums had smoke billowing from the top two floors, where firefighters were concentrating the efforts of several hoses, including two directed from tower ladder trucks. At that time, white smoke was billowing from the roof.
At 4:15 p.m., the fire was largely under control, but large parts of the fourth and fifth floor visible from the street appeared heavily damaged by smoke and fire. About 4:30 p.m., firefighters were concentrating on hotspots on the fifth floor of the building.
By about 5 p.m., firefighters were trying to get into the parts of the building that had not collapsed, but were going to wait to try to get into the collapsed parts of the building until the city Buildings Department has a chance to check the building, McNicholas said.
During the fire, the smoke could be seen from at least a mile away.
Written by Chicago Tribune
Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix