Early morning Oak Park house fire spreads to apartment building

Residents and pets evacuate, 9 neighboring fire departments respond


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Jean Lotus

Forest Park Review Editor

Firefighters battled a three-alarm fire that spread from a two-story vacant house to an adjacent Oak Park apartment building on the 500 block of North Humphrey Avenue, Wednesday morning.

The fire started around 4:30 a.m. at 541 N. Humphrey. The building was unoccupied and was being renovated, said Village President Anan Abu-Taleb, who was on the scene. Flames jumped to the tile roof of the apartment building and burned through.

Sixty-five firefighters from nine different neighboring fire districts came to Oak Park to assist, Abu-Taleb said. Assisting departments included Stickney, Berwyn, Maywood, North Riverside, Elmwood Park, Cicero and Melrose Park. The roof of the house collapsed.

"The good thing is no one got hurt," Abu-Taleb said.

Police knocked on doors in the neighboring 13-unit apartment building and alerted sleeping residents who evacuated in a hurry — many in pajamas.

"There were flames coming out of all of the windows [of 541]," said Natalie, who declined to give her last name. She fled the third floor with her pet cockapoo, leaving her cellphone and purse behind.

The L-shaped apartment building is owned by the Oak Park Residence Corporation and is called "Iowa Terrace." Calls to OPRC Executive Director Maria Soldana were not immediately returned. Residents were not allowed to return to the apartment building, which sustained fire and water damage.

Firefighters got the blaze under control around 6:30 a.m.   



Reader Comments

35 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 6th, 2014 9:00 AM

What, exactly, does having additional firemen have to do with the number and frequency of fires, 'Another'? The fire started in the middle of the night in a frame house undergoing rehab, then spread to an adjacent building. How exactly would having more fire fighters have prevented what was a private set of circumstances- unless there was a FF actually there when it started? What you're suggesting is the fire fighter equivalent of having a cop on every corner. You wanna pay for that?

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 6th, 2014 6:47 AM

@ another - what? when did firemen start to prevent house fires? They are already blazing when the FF gets there.

Another Big Fire from Oak Park  

Posted: September 5th, 2014 6:35 PM

First the fire on Clinton Street. Now this fire. Ive been living here for 20 years and dont remember this many big fires here so close together. Whats the problem here in Oak Park? Do we not have enough firemen?

Island Dweller   

Posted: September 5th, 2014 11:48 AM

John Q, I'm not sure how your statement contracts what I said. Regardless of accent, written English is the same (with the exception of how the British spell a few words), so there is no bias there. Yeah, minorities have higher levels of poorly educated students, and that is unfair, but the test is not unfair, and I would not want something like affirmative action to be imposed on firefighter, just to "even the odds", just I wouldn't want it with people flying planes etc.

In Glen Ellyn formerly from OP  

Posted: September 4th, 2014 9:38 PM

John Q- too bad nobody told you sooner either of two two things- if you don't already know it the day before the test, it's too late OR the brain is like the body that doesn't work well the day after being fatigued from studying, just like the body the day after being fatigued from extra exercise.

John Q  

Posted: September 4th, 2014 8:45 PM

I studied 3-4 hours and almost failed a test. Then I studied 5 hours and failed a test. My instructors grew concerned. After that they were keeping an eye on all my academics. Then out of nowhere my scores were consistently in the mid and high 90s. They asked what happened. I told them the honest to God's truth. I stopped studying. I begin spending no more than an hour reviewing before a test and my scores stayed fairly high. It's really more a socioeconomic thing, not race...more upbringing.

John Q  

Posted: September 4th, 2014 8:41 PM

...my practical application of the material and my work performance has consistently outshined people who scored higher than me. It's really frustrating for me but it's true. People read test questions and statements and literally interpret what the test is asking in different ways. From my experience in the military, non-college graduates and young people score better on our multiple choice exams than more educated and more experienced people. I actually failed a test once from overstudying..

John Q  

Posted: September 4th, 2014 8:37 PM

Island Dweller, I doubt you will accept this but you asked. It has nothing to do with speaking English. I rarely see white southerners or white Bostonians (for example) accused of not speaking English but most of us have to double take and ask what did she say? I am a good example. On standardized tests I never perform among the top scorers and while I don't struggle with the curriculum (even when I think it is easy) I am usually somewhere in the middle of high and low scores. Despite that..


Posted: September 4th, 2014 6:09 PM

@Bill Kopper- for smaller fires, there is NOT such a big response. Only when the Chief elevates the alarm, (depending on the scale of the incident) are more Depts requested. OP only has 2 Engines and 1 Truck, each w/ only 3 firefighters on them. This is not adequate per NFPA standard for even a "routine" fire. The initial response for a reported fire get just 1 extra engine from a different town. Those "smaller" fires will turn to big fires if not dealt w/ quickly.

Happily Retired from Bellwood  

Posted: September 4th, 2014 3:17 PM

Regarding the hiring of black firefighters, the Department has had up to seven. Three retired. Two were let go. One, the female, remains.

Island Dweller   

Posted: September 4th, 2014 2:46 PM

LeRoy, Do black people not speak English? If so, how is the language on the test "biased" towards white people?

Island Dweller   

Posted: September 4th, 2014 2:43 PM

Minority, when a fire a raging in your home, the last thing you're going to care about is the color of your firefighter. The only thing you are going to care about is whether or not they can save your life. There are a lot more black fire fighters in Oak Park than there are Chinese, Indian, Cambodian, Sri Lankan etc. Why not whine about the lack of other colors that are far less represented than blacks?

Bill Kopper from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 4th, 2014 11:14 AM

@Bill Dwyer. You seem to know the folks at WJ and report there at times. What would be good to see in WJ would be a side box next to the article on the fire telling us what the MABAS 11 arrangement is and how it is invoked, Looked like it was good we had it for this fire, but do we really need all these departments responding to the smaller single residence fires we've had in Oak Park the last few years? Is this for training? My guess is that in most cases the fire is under control by the time the good folks form North Riverside arrive in Oak Park.


Posted: September 4th, 2014 9:30 AM

FD recruiting is normally a written test, physical test, psych eval, polygraph, backround check, and interviews. A list is then made in order of most eligible to least, & applicants are called in that order. Pretty fair way to get the best applicants for a physically/mentally demanding job. Same standards for everyone. The OP FD DOES have a # of minorities. Sorry you did not see them in these few photos.

LeRoy from Austin  

Posted: September 4th, 2014 8:43 AM

The problem with recruiting black firefighters has been that historically it has been difficult for them to pass the written examination. I think the test is being modified to reflect concerns that the language is biased more toward white people. Someone else may have more information

joe from south oak park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 10:12 PM

I'm not an insurance expert... but i did stay in a holiday inn express last night.

Keith from Oak Park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 9:59 PM

Everyone's an expert, are you one? If, you cause damage to another persons property are you not liable for damages. This fire did not start in any of those apartments. I beg to differ with you, it's called liabilty.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 5:52 PM

It's irrelevant nitpicking, RichF. Meaningless. Go out sometime and report on a fire or police action before the sun comes up, or late at night. You quickly come to an understanding of what matters and what doesn't. And missing one of the departments that responded to a box alarm fire that threatened dozens of lives and destroyed a house simply isn't worth mentioning. But you did, for some reason.


Posted: September 3rd, 2014 5:22 PM

Can we get some black firefighters already?

LeRoy from Austin  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 4:32 PM

Our Fire Department is trucking awesome. Way to go boys and hope the lasagna did not get too cold. We need more brave souls like you

RichF from OakPark  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 4:16 PM

Just saying, Bill Dwyer. It's a reporter's job to get it right. Don't list 7 departments if there were 8. If you get tired of writing all the names just say they were supported by numerous other departments. It's disappointing to get sloppy, half stories in the newspapers all the time. How many times do you read stories and have more questions after reading a story?

In Glen Ellyn formerly from OP  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 4:09 PM

RichF- not bad reporting, just poor reading and 'rithmatic. "...from nine different neighboring fire districts came to Oak Park to assist...departments included..." 7 were named, leaving 2, that came to Oak Park's aid, unnamed. Silly person.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 3:25 PM

Wow, RichF. You have such high standards for news reporting, as if the presence of of one or another department's units advances the story any meaningful way. There was a major fire, people were displaced. WJ reported that well, with photos. Just wondering, do you apply those same exacting standards to yourself?

insure me  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 3:23 PM

Jane, although you are right, let's be honest, no subrogation is going to happen. Furthermore, I would be willing to guess that of the families displaced by fire in the apartment bldg, less than half probably had renters insurance. Hope I am wrong, but probably am not. I would ask, why/how did this spread so fast to the building, our fire department is pretty good.

RichF from Oak Park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 3:14 PM

River Forest not listed as being there in the stories I've read but their equipment was in the pictures. Just bad reporting.

OP Conscience from OP  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 3:05 PM

It's obvious this is all George Bush's fault!


Posted: September 3rd, 2014 1:11 PM

Not necessarily true, "everyone's an expert." Some HO forms provide coverage for the policy holder's property damage liability to third parties as well as first party property loss. If I were the tenant's renter's insurer, I would definitely be looking at possible subrogation here.

everyones an expert  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 12:40 PM

Keith from Ok Park, you can suggest whatever you want, but their home insurance company will tell the tenants to pound sand. Sorry to be so blunt, but each person has to have their own homeowners insurance (in this case, renters policy). There is almost no way in h.e double hockey sticks that the homeowners insurance company would pay out the tenants for anything. Alex Jacobs, you don't know anything about MABAS or Mutual Aid, so please stop. No conspiracy here of RF not providing assistance

keith from Ok Park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 12:06 PM

I read where the owners of the house who were living in the Coach House had been sanding the floors last night. The one owner said she hoped the people in the building had renters insurance. May I suggest they file claims with her insurance company.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 12:03 PM

Alex, I'd be stunned if River Forest and Forest Park and other MABAS 11 departments weren't on scene this morning providing assistance. This was a major fire on the frame house and causing damage to an adjacent multi-unit apartment building. RF's involvement is under the state's Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, and not some agreement just with Oak Park.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park,  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 11:43 AM

Is that why there was a helicopter hovering around northeast Oak Park before 7 AM this morning?

Alex Jacobs from River Forest & Oak Park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 10:57 AM

The NBC report did NOT mention River Forest Fire Department... Interesting! Did RF FD provide assistance, man power or equipment?

RichF from Oak Park  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 10:30 AM

Don't think they'd be happy with the new truck since it isn't a quint with the hose system in it. They probably could have gotten the water on the roof of the apartment a lot quicker.

Jill O'Mahony Stewart from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 10:17 AM

I know what it's like to evacuate an apartment in jammies. It is so disruptive: you wake up and have to move. You never forget the smell.

I bet  

Posted: September 3rd, 2014 9:08 AM

the people in the apartment building are thankful for Oak Park's new truck.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2018

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2018 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad