Three floors of an apartment building at 12 Washington Blvd. in Oak Park were engulfed with smoke after a small kitchen fire broke out in a fifth-floor apartment at approximately 4:40 p.m. on Sept. 18.
When the Oak Park Fire Department received word of the fire, they were advised people were trapped on the top floor.
“They couldn’t exit due to the amount of smoke,” said Oak Park Deputy Fire Chief Peter Pilafas. “When they opened up their door, the hallway was full of smoke, so they closed it.”
According to Pilafas, that was “absolutely the right thing to do,” as closing the door prevented smoke and fire from advancing into the interior of their apartment.
Because the building has roughly 47 units, 15 to 20 of which were affected by the large amount of smoke generated by the fire, additional fire companies were called to the scene to assist.
One crew located and extinguished the fire, while others started evacuating people through the rear exits of the apartment building.
“It was actually a fairly small fire, but it created a lot of smoke,” Pilafas said.
The building suffered significant smoke damage, particularly on the fourth and fifth floors, leaving some apartments uninhabitable, according to Pilafas. Firefighters had to force open approximately 14 doors to make sure no one remained in the building while firefighters were fighting the blaze.
“We didn’t have the keys and, based on the conditions, we just wanted to make sure that the individuals were getting out,” Pilafas said. “It is quite a bit of damage forcing doors.”
Two individuals were treated on the scene for smoke inhalation and possible asthma but did not require hospitalization. No one else was injured. The Red Cross aided the fire department in helping the displaced residents from floors three to five.
Evacuees gathered across the street in the gymnasium of St. Catherine-St. Lucy School. Police officers and firefighters escorted residents individually inside the apartment building to retrieve medicine and other necessities.
“No fire is great, but the overall operation went well,” Pilafas said. “Individuals were all moved to a safe area.”