A trapped man was rescued from a blazing Oak Park house fire Sunday afternoon, assisted by neighbors and the fire department.

Mark Kaufman, a 47-year-old Oak Parker, was driving home just after noon on Sunday when his son spotted smoke billowing up from a home on the 900 block of North Harvey Ave. in Oak Park.

“I backed up, turned around, and I saw flames coming out of the top of the door at an enormous rate,” Kaufman recalled on Monday.

When Kaufman ran up to the home, two boys standing in front said they had already called 911.

“I yelled, ‘Hey! Is anybody in there? Are you OK?’ and I heard this yell,” Kaufman recalled. “It was one of those blood-curdling screams, where you can tell somebody’s really in pain.”

Working with a boy and a police officer, Kaufman said he smashed the back window with a 2-by-4 and unlocked the door, but couldn’t open it all the way.

Struggling to gain entry, Kaufman caught a glimpse of the man inside the home, who was on the ground and visibly sick from the thick, acrid smoke. Just then, the fire department showed up on the scene. They forced their way into the home and found the man in a back bedroom and brought him out to administer immediate care.

“Obviously, rescue is our first priority,” Oak Park Fire Chief Tom Ebsen said in an interview Monday. “They basically dragged him out of the back door and carried him to the front lawn.”

The man suffered injuries from smoke inhalation, since he was in the back of the house and the fire was in the front, Ebsen said, though the chief could not confirm what the victim was treated for by paramedics after leaving the scene.

The victim was taken first to West Suburban Hospital, and then later to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ebsen said.

Neither Ebsen nor Kaufman knew why the man couldn’t escape, though the house was under construction. There was a large pile of wood in the backyard, and the back deck appeared to be freshly built, they both said.

“Especially since the advent of smoke detectors, it’s pretty rare for us to find people who are trapped inside houses,” Ebsen said. “It’s been a little while for us.”

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Ben Meyerson

Ben was Wednesday Journal's crime, parks, and River Forest reporter, until he kept bugging us enough to promote him. Now he's managing two of Wednesday Journal's sister papers in the city, Chicago Journal...