Four Injured in Chicago Extra-Alarm Apartment Fire

At least four people were injured and others were rescued down ladders when an extra-alarm blaze broke out at a courtyard apartment building in the Chatham neighborhood this morning, authorities say.

The fire started shortly after 5 a.m. in the building in the 700 block of East 82nd Street, possibly in a stairwell of the four-story building, and burned through the top floor, officials said.

The fire was quickly raised to a 3-11 alarm, the second of the early morning, and extra ambulances were called. The fire was struck out shortly before 7 a.m.

When firefighters pulled up, flames were shooting from third- and fourth-floor windows. Firefighters quickly raised ladders to rescue residents, he said.

"They had people hanging out the windows," Fire Chief Michael Fox told reporters. "And they had one person who already jumped into the alley."

Quincella Cooks, 25, was asleep on the first floor when she woke up smelling smoke. She opened her front door and was confronted with a wall of hot, dark smoke, she said. She grabbed her 1-year-old baby in her arms. "I ran to the back door and saw smoke," she said. "The only option I had was to jump from the window."

Cooks said she climbed to the ledge and was greeted by a firefighter who helped her, her young son Jarvail and her husband get out safe.

"By the time we got out, everybody was already outside," she said, standing barefoot. "It was very scary. We've never been through anything like this before."

Henrietta Ofili, 41, woke up to her smoke detector going off. At first she tried to ignore the loud screech, but when she smelled smoke she went to investigate.

"I opened my door, I saw the smoke everywhere," she said. "I grabbed my baby, I knocked on my neighbors' door and we got out."

Outside, Ofili said she saw some of her neighbors struggling to escape. Some were climbing through windows, others had to be pulled out by firefighters, she said.

"At first I started crying," she said as she held her 2-year old son Samuel on her lap. "But then I said, 'Thank God we are alive.' "

One person was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn in serious-to-critical condition, fire officials said.

Two people were taken to nearby Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center, one in fair-to-serious condition and the other in good condition. The fourth victim was taken to St. Bernard Hospital in good condition, officials said.

As firefighters brought the fire under control, residents and neighbors gathered on the street. One group formed a small prayer circle and cried for their neighbors' well-being.

One woman paced back and forth, worrying that her dog had been injured or didn't escape. But she and her friend yelled and cheered when they saw the dog safe with a firefighters.

"He may be a hero," one woman said about the black and white dog.

Copyright 2012 - Chicago Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service