One resident has died following a fire that broke out last Wednesday evening in an apartment building in the 200 block of South Maple Avenue in Oak Park. David Rechs, 64, was in critical condition at Loyola University Medical Center, where he was transported after being evacuated from the building. He was pronounced dead the following night, at 8:26 p.m., July 27, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

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 The fire is believed to have been caused by a natural gas explosion and is under investigation. The cause of the fire will likely not be confirmed until the Illinois State Fire Marshall issues an official incident report in the coming weeks, Oak Park spokesperson Dan Yopchick told Wednesday Journal. No other injuries were reported, but 12 residents have been displaced.

“This is very scary and there were other residents in the building at the time, so we are fortunate and thankful that nobody else was injured,” Deputy Fire Chief Joseph “J.T.” Terry told reporters in a press conference the morning after the fire.

  • Fire investigators from Oak Park, River Forest, Nicor Gas and state and federal agencies at the scene of previous evening's fire at 221 S Maple on Thursday July 27, 2023 | Todd Bannor

The fire department responded to the fire at 5 p.m., July 26, about three minutes after it started, and discovered a section of wall had collapsed and debris in the front yard. Reinforcements from fire departments in 10 other jurisdictions were called in to extinguish the flames.

“We’re thankful for our neighbor communities’ assistance,” Terry told reporters.

All six apartment units within the building were deemed uninhabitable. The American Red Cross was on the scene that Wednesday night to help provide shelter to those unable to secure other arrangements.

Investigators from the Illinois State Fire Marshal, the Oak Park Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were at the scene of the fire Thursday morning to determine the cause.

“This is under investigation, and we do call and ask for assistance. They have equipment and a dog that we do not have,” said Terry of the other agencies’ presence. “We lean on our partner agencies for assistance when we can.”

 Nicor Gas representatives were also at the scene that morning. The gas for the building has been turned off.

This is a developing story.

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