Space Heater Sparks IL House Fire

Jan. 28, 2023
Phoenix Fire Chief Kevin Betton said crews encountered heavy fire.

Alexandra Kukulka

The Daily Southtown, Tinley Park, Ill.


Jan. 27—A fire at a Phoenix home left a family of five displaced Friday morning after a space heater in a back bedroom caught fire, according to the family.

Tanisha Curtis, who lives in the home, said the heater inside the home wasn't working. She said the landlord sent crews out twice since November to fix the heater, but after a day or two it wouldn't work again.

Curtis said her son was using a space heater in the back bedroom to keep warm, and it must have been close to the mattress or a piece of clothing because that's where the fire appears to have started.

"We were just trying to heat the house," Curtis said.

Gilford Banks, the landlord, declined to comment Friday.

Phoenix Fire Department crews responded at about 6 a.m. to the fire in the 15200 block of Vincennes Road, said fire Chief Kevin Betton. Crews reported heavy smoke and flames from the back porch of the single-family home, he said.

No one was seriously hurt, Betton said, but two people were taken to UChicago Ingalls Memorial for treatment of minor burns.

Betton said Friday the cause of the fire was under investigation.

A basketball hoop and trash cans were tipped over on the property as fire crews and the arson team walked in and out of the house about 8:45 a.m. Friday. A bicycle on the porch was bent and porch railings were missing as the fire destroyed the majority of the rear of the home.

Curtis said she heard screams at about 5:45 a.m. as her fiance woke her and her three children. Curtis said she quickly grabbed her dog and ran out of the house.

Her 14-year-old son and her fiance were taken to the hospital with minor burns, she said.

Sitting in her Chevrolet Impala, Curtis said she didn't know what to do because she ran out of the house without identification.

Curtis, a nursing student at ATS Institute of Technology, said she considered going to class but realized she couldn't because all her course work and nursing supplies were inside the house.

"I don't have anything," she said.

Her family planned to stay with family or friends Friday night, she said.

"We're trying to figure it out now," Curtis said. "It's a terrible experience that I never imagined going through."

Marisol Espades, who lives across the street, said she woke up at 6:30 a.m. to her dog barking outside. When she looked out the window, the street was filled with fire crews.

Espades said the blaze looked terrifying.

"The entire street was filled and the entire house looked inflamed," Espades said.

Espades said she knew the family who lived in the home and said they are very calm and quiet neighbors.

"I got really scared and worried for the kids," Espades said.

Shortly before 11 a.m., two people with the American Red Cross came to the home to help the family. They spent about an hour, talking inside a vehicle, and at one point one of the workers gave the family a few bags of supplies.

Mara Thompson, a spokeswoman with the American Red Cross, said the family reached out for assistance, which means the workers discussed shelter, food and financial resources they would need.

"What they need immediately, we help with those next steps," Thompson said.


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