Neighbors who pulled 33-year-old Will Lowe out of a burning house early Saturday morning are hoping for the best for the Warrenville man, whom family members say suffered third-degree burns on 40 percent of his body.
The fire that severely burned Lowe completely destroyed the two-story, single-family house where he lived with several roommates who rented space at the corner of Forestview and Curtis avenues in Warrenville.
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When next-door neighbor Lionel Martinez noticed the fire just before 5 a.m., he sprang to action. Seeing the blaze was much larger than the bonfires his neighbors frequently held, he and two other nearby residents ran outside to help.
"I just booked it outside, and two girls were screaming, 'Someone's in there!'" Martinez said.
The trio of neighbors looked at the house and noticed Lowe "draped out" of the first-floor window with his clothes on fire.
"We need to get him out -- now," Martinez said to the other neighbors, who together tugged Lowe out from the window, trying not to injure him more by scratching him across broken glass.
By the time neighbors rescued Lowe, it was just after 5 a.m. and the first police officers were responding to the scene.
"Once we got him to a safe distance, I just kept walking," Martinez said.
The house was "fully engulfed in flames" by the time police arrived, according to a Warrenville police news release. Warrenville fire officials said Lowe was airlifted to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. Relatives said he was undergoing surgery late Saturday morning.
Across Curtis to the west of the burning house, Anthony Bell and his daughter Breana were among neighbors who tried to assist the other six people who were inside the home when the fire broke out. Some residents had blisters on their hands from touching hot door knobs, Breana said.
"All of the neighbors were out here scattered, trying to do what we can, not with the fire but with the people," Bell said.
Four residents of the house were evaluated at the scene, but refused treatment at a hospital, Warrenville Fire Chief Jerry Kleinwachter said. The other two occupants were not injured, he said.
The Bells and other neighbors watched as fire crews turned on their hoses, spraying jets of water strong enough to knock down the few walls that weren't bulldozed by flames.
"It was hard to stand on the sidewalk; it was that hot," Bell said.
Firefighters later felled the last standing wall with a small tractor as they worked to ensure no more hot spots were burning, neighbors said.
The blaze is being investigated by the DuPage County fire investigation task force. Investigators leaving the scene late Saturday morning said the cause still was undetermined and cautioned neighbors to be careful around the site.
The fire did not damage any other homes.
Bell said neighbors plan to hold a fundraiser for Lowe and the other fire victims, whom neighbors believe did not have renters insurance. As they talked with Lowe's family and surveyed the rubble of the fire site some called "freaky" and "horrible," neighbors took the news of Lowe's condition as possibly a positive sign.
"It's good to hear he's stable," Martinez said.