Fire ravaged two homes at 814 and 818 S. Clinton Ave. in Oak Park early Sunday morning. (David Pierini/staff photographer)

An early morning blaze totally destroyed one house and spread to two others in the 800 block of Clinton Avenue early Sunday morning. Seventy-five fire fighters from 11 neighboring municipalities fought the fire, which was first reported at 4:17 a.m. said Oak Park Fire Chief Tom Ebsen.

“When we got there the house [at 814 Clinton Ave.] was fully involved with flames on all three floors, so our strategy was to try to protect the homes on either side,” Ebsen said.

But a north wind blew flames onto the roof of neighboring 818, to the south, which sustained significant fire and water damage, Ebsen said. No one was injured and firefighters returned into one house and rescued a cat, Ebsen said. The house at 810 Clinton sustained minor damage.

“Three families are displaced, but everyone got out, so it could have been much worse,” Ebsen said.

The owner of 814, Mora McDonald lives in Takoma Park, Maryland.  She said by phone she inherited her girlhood home from her mother and had remodeled and rented to tenants since 2012.

“I can’t believe it. I grew up in that house,” she said. “It’s devastating.”

Three inhabitants of the house at 814 were home when the blaze started in the front of the house, possibly on the front porch.

The Red Cross crisis response team arrived and was working with family members in the destroyed home to give them short-term housing and clothing, Ebsen said.

Neighbor Brad Giemza, of 818 Clinton, said his nine-year-old daughter awakened the family and they rushed outside to safety.

“You could feel the heat from next door on the inside walls of our house,” he said.

Ebsen said the fire’s cause had not been determined and that five regional investigators would be on the scene later Sunday to try to determine the starting point.

** If you have photos of the fire you’d like to share, send them to

This article has been updated to correctly spell Brad Giemza’s name.

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    As the first firefighters from the Oak Park South Station pulled up in front of a raging, “fully involved” blaze at 814 Clinton Ave. around 4:20 a.m. on Sunday morning, they realized the amount of water from the mid-block hydrant would not be sufficient to combat the flames, said Oak Park Fire Chief Tom Ebsen.

     “A normal residential hydrant puts out about 500 gallons per minute, and it’s good enough to attack a small fire with two to three hand lines,” Ebsen said.

     “This was an unusual fire, because it was pumping out so many BTUs when we got there,” Ebsen said. “When we pulled up, the need for water overwhelmed us at first.”

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Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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