Web Extra! First posted 12/13/2008 4:08 p.m.

Scroll down for a slideshow of photos from the fire

Fire investigators are seeking the cause of an intense attic fire, Saturday afternoon, that left two Oak Park families homeless.

Officials say a passerby noticed flames shooting out of the attic of a 100-year-old greystone two-flat at 1005 Wesley Ave. at 1:54 p.m., Dec. 14. Responding police pounded on the door to alert homeowner Todd Ollie, 42, who lived on the first floor of the two-flat with his mother. He said he’d been unaware of the fire.

“A fireman was banging on the door and said we had to get out of there,” Ollie said. Police carried Ollie’s mother, who uses a wheelchair, down the front steps. He said family members were on their way to pick him and his mother up. The building’s second floor tenants, a married couple, were not home at the time.

Oak Park Deputy Chief Tom Ebsen said his firefighters, assisted by Forest Park, believed the fire would be a routine situation, but reconsidered when water pressure in the area was found to be low.

“That’s unusual for us,” said Ebsen, who added the Oak Park water department was working to determined what caused the problem.

Firefighters from three other departments, including Berwyn, Cicero and North Riverside were called under what’s called a Box Alert, and a ladder truck from Cicero was used to reach flames on the roof. By shortly after 3 p.m., they had the fire under control.

The effort to contain the fire closed intersections at Garfield and Wesley, Lexington and Wesley and at Harvard and Wesley. A neighboring brick three-flat appeared to have sustained some damage. WBBM radio reported that the fire caused a gaper’s block on the Eisenhower.

The fire is believed to have started in the building’s attic, though a preliminary report wasn’t available until Tuesday afternoon.

The walls of the masonry building appeared solid, the roof was heavily damaged, and part of the attic had collapsed into the second floor living area.

“The first floor was largely untouched, except for water damage,” said Ebsen.

While the cause of the fire will be determined by fire department investigators, any final determination of the building’s condition and livability will be up to the village’s building department, Ebsen said. He said he expected it would likely be rebuilt, though.

“It’s a good old solid two-flat masonry building.”

CONTACT: bdwyer@wjinc.com

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