The community is rallying to support two Oak Park families that had to evacuate their homes after a fire broke out in a three-story building at 603 Madison St. on Sunday, July 12. Firefighters arrived at the scene at about 4:40 p.m. and were able to control the fire quickly, but the building sustained major making it uninhabitable until repaired. No one was significantly harmed in the fire, but both families lost their possessions.
“Flames were visible near the rear porch of the top floor of the three-story building, which has commercial space on the first floor and two apartments above, one each on the second and third floors,” said David Powers, Oak Park spokesperson.
The top apartment sustained damage from the fire. The second-floor apartment received minor fire damage but significant water damage. The commercial space below, occupied by Compass Eye Care, also had water damage. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
At least three GoFundMe fundraising campaigns have been created to support the two displaced families, including a joint GoFundMe page started by the Oak Park Moms community group. Both families have individual GoFundMe campaigns as well.
Angelica and Jose Birriel lived with their five children in the second-floor apartment. According to the individual GoFundMe page set up for the Birriel family, the Birriels and their pets are safe and well, but are looking for temporary housing. The campaign has netted $8,420 in donations so far.
Single mother and teacher Dierdre Byrne lived in the top floor apartment with her four children, three of whom have Type 1 Diabetes. Byrne and her eldest son were home at the time of the fire and treated for smoke inhalation at the scene. Two firefighters reported minor injuries that did not require hospitalization. Byrne’s two cats were unable to be rescued from the fire.
According to Byrne’s cousin Alana O’Connor, Byrne and her children have relocated to Byrne’s sister’s home in Naperville. In addition to their possessions, the family’s supply of insulin and blood sugar strip tests was lost to the fire.
A few families shared their own supplies with Byrne to tide her children over until their new prescriptions were filled.
“People gave her enough to last until those get filled again,” said O’Connor.
Other people in the community have given clothes and gift cards to Byrne and her children. Byrne also was given a laptop to help in her search for a new permanent living situation. Some have set aside furniture for them.
“It’s overwhelming, the generosity of people,” said O’Connor.
The GoFundMe page O’Connor set up for her cousin has garnered $32,135 in monetary donations, surpassing its goal of $25,000. While one person donated $200, the smaller donations are just as meaningful to the family.
“It’s the people who gave $5 or $10,” said O’Connor. “They probably don’t have a lot right now but they’re still donating a little bit just to help. It’s heartwarming to see that.”
The GoFundMe page set up by Oak Park Moms for both families has raised $2,680, over half its goal of $5,000.