An Oak Park man was killed and some 20 people were displaced by a fire that broke out Easter Sunday morning in a 10-unit condo building at 327 Wisconsin Ave.
Oak Park Deputy Fire Chief Peter Pilafas said firefighters responded to the call, which came in just after 9 a.m. on April 1.
“We arrived at the scene and had heavy fire coming out of the windows of the second-floor condo unit,” he said. “Fire department crews went in and found a male victim in the second floor condo.
“Unfortunately, due to his condition, we were unable to revive him.”
The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet identified the victim or an official cause of death.
For Nicole Holmes, a resident of the building, the morning started off with a loud bang. She then heard “screaming and things falling over” coming from the unit where the fire originated, she said.
“I opened the door and I could see smoke coming from the unit; I called 911,” she said.
Holmes said that as the smoke got thicker residents began evacuating the building. That’s when she got out. She said she was allowed back into the building briefly on Sunday, noting that the walls had caved in at adjacent units and the basement of the building was flooded.
Holmes did not know the tenants of the unit that caught fire, but she said it was occupied by an elderly woman and her son.
Pilafas said in a telephone interview that there were no other injuries or casualties associated with the fire.
Two other tenants who discussed the fire under the condition of anonymity also said they heard a loud bang prior to realizing there was a fire. One woman said she felt the floor shake when the explosion occurred.
Pilafas said the incident is still under investigation and a cause has not been determined, but said the explosion-like sound might have been the result of a window blowing out in reaction to the super-heated gas and smoke caused by the fire.
“Most of the fire damage was contained to the second floor, but it did get into the third floor,” he said, adding that the entire building suffered water and smoke damage.
A single-family home directly south of the condo building also suffered some damage due to radiant heat caused by the fire.
He said the blaze was extinguished in about 10 minutes – it took about 20 more minutes to extinguish various hot spots around the building.
“Everybody was able to evacuate on their own due to the fact that the building had working smoke detectors,” he said.
Forest Park firefighters assisted in extinguishing the fire and the Illinois State Fire Marshal and Oak Park Police Department are assisting in the investigation.
“It’s really an unfortunate circumstance that someone died in this fire. We’re trying to find out the root cause,” Pilafas said.