The Oak Park Fire Department continues to investigate the cause of a fire that destroyed the upper floor of a four unit apartment building in the 600 block of Wenonah Avenue late Thursday afternoon. The fire started in the third floor apartment at 632-34 Wenonah Ave. Mary Tomlinson, 44, reportedly attempted to put the fire out, suffering first and second degree burns to her face and hands in the process. She was walked to an ambulance and taken to the Loyola Medical Center Burn Unit in Maywood, where she was also treated for smoke inhalation. Her husband, who was reportedly on the second floor of the building at the time, was not injured. No other tenants were in the building at the time of the fire.
Oak Park Fire Department Battalion Chief Kevin Wiley said Thursday that due to the volume of fire visible when the first units arrived after the initial call at 5:16 p.m., a box alarm was called, summoning firefighters from six surrounding municipalities, including River Forest, Forest Park, North Riverside, and Cicero. While a large section of the roof on the southwest corner was visibly destroyed, Wiley said firefighters were able to contain the fire damage to the two story upper apartment, though he said that the apartment directly below the fire likely suffered some water damage.
“The roof is pretty well gone,” said Wiley.
The blaze was officially struck around 6:15 p.m. Oak Park Fire Chief William Bell said Tuesday morning that his department had not yet determined a cause of the fire, but hopes to have more information by Thursday.
As a steady drizzle poured down on a large blue tarp covering the building’s burned out roof, owner Joseph Battaglia spent last Friday morning letting tenants into the building to retrieve whatever belongings they could salvage and watching board up workers cover all basement windows and those on the third floor. Battaglia said that humans weren’t the only beings threatened by the blaze. A cat living in the apartment where the fire started was rescued Thursday night. A second cat living in an adjacent second floor apartment was rescued Friday morning.
A board up worker said that he saw extensive fire damage to the dormered half story above the second floor, and extensive smoke and water damage to the second and first floors, as well as to the basement.
“There’s lots of water still in the basement,” the man said.