One killed, several injured in Des Plaines-area condo fire
One person was killed and at least six others injured, including four firefighters, Sunday morning when fire ripped through the top floor of a six-story condominium building in an unincorporated area near Des Plaines.
The Cook County medical examiner's office said the victim, who was not immediately identified, died from burns. Fire officials said the person was found to be unresponsive and was later pronounced dead at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.
North Maine Fire Protection District Chief Robert McKay said seven people in all were taken to a hospital for treatment, four of them firefighters who were treated for heat exhaustion and minor injuries. Two civilians also sustained minor injuries.
The cause of the fire, which left 38 residents homeless and the building uninhabitable, is under investigation, he added.
Two other residents trapped on their balconies by the fire were rescued by firefighters using ladder trucks. Firefighters initially tried to enter the building and fight the fire from the inside, but were forced out by flames.
The fire broke out about 7:42 a.m. Sunday, forcing residents of the Landings condominiums on the 9300 block of Landings Lane, near Ballard and Potter roads, to flee with family members, pets and what belongings they could quickly gather.
Many stayed and watched from nearby driveways as firefighters from North Maine and several surroundings departments used aerial ladders and hoses to send water cascading down on burning balconies. By 10 a.m., the fire was largely under control and firefighters put out hot spots and searched for anybody left behind.
Meanwhile, Red Cross officials set up a command post at the complex clubhouse to answer residents' questions and arrange temporary housing.
"Right now, we're trying to locate everybody and trying to find out if they have a place to go," Red Cross team leader Rick Lee said. "And if not, we're going to be putting them in a shelter."
Sandra Swietlik, who lives on the building's second floor with her mother, was standing outside holding her dog, Travis, as firefighters worked to put out the blaze.
"Now our house is gone," she said. "I don't know where you start from here."
She said she heard a neighbor screaming there was a fire and urging everyone to leave about 7:45 a.m.
"As we left and we turned the corner, we saw the smoke and within, I would say, two to three minutes, the windows blew out and smoke engulfed the whole apartment, through the roof," Swietlik said. "And then you could just hear glass shattering and you could hear things falling. And then everyone started running out of the building screaming."
One woman was rescued off the balcony because she couldn't descend the stairs, she added.
Damian Dikanovic, who lives on the sixth floor across the hall from where the fire started, said he and his family will be staying with their in-laws.
"When I heard the fire alarms starting to go off, I opened the door. There was a bunch of smoke, and I felt some heat. So I closed my door and grabbed my daughter and the keys and wallet and I ran out down the stairs," he said.
Lynn Gottfried, who lives in a building next door, said she was concerned the fire might spread.
"From rooftop to rooftop. You never know," she said.
Mary Swietlik, the secretary of the condominium board, said a representative from building management, Property Corporation of America in Glenview, visited the scene Sunday morning and is handling details such as insurance.
"It's a shock for everybody," she said. "Everything is gone."