Neighbors rescue kids from West Pullman fire

Neighbors and first responders formed a human net to catch children jumping from a South Side fire even before firefighters arrived.
April 16, 2014 5:05:16 AM PDT
Neighbors and first responders formed a human net to catch children jumping from a South Side fire even before firefighters arrived.

The fire broke out in a home at 116th and Michigan in the West Pullman neighborhood.

"They said we got to get out. You could look at their face and see they were in shock," said Bernard Jones.

Jones and other neighbors got to work after seeing two children trapped on the second floor of the two-flat. They tried to run into the burning building but the thick smoke and intense flames forced them back. With time running out, there was only one way out for the children.

"We were in a semicircle and the boy was hanging and when we told him to jump, everybody just came in at the same time so he fell into all our arms," Jones said.

Chicago police and firefighters quickly arrived to help get others out of the building. They used a ladder to rescue an older man still upstairs. During the effort, a police officer was hurt, a firefighter overcome by smoke and another firefighter broke a leg.

"One firefighter from the heat conditions experienced on the second floor was forced down the stairs and subsequently fell down the stairs and was injured," said said Deputy Commissioner John McNicholas, Chicago Fire Department.

Firefighters are still trying to figure out what caused the fire. They suspect, though, it may have started in the ceiling of the first floor; the second floor was destroyed.

The fire broke out around 6 p.m. Tuesday.

"The second floor was definitely engulfed. The first floor seemed like it was starting to take fire also," said Charles Kirkland, neighbor.

Jones says an older, teenage sibling also made the leap.

"The little one didn't hesitate at all to jump out the window. It was the older one that sort of hesitated a little bit, but the little guy was like, 'Hey, I'm coming,'" said Jones.

"The first person that actually was on the scene was a member of the Chicago Police Department. That person was injured, slightly injured trying to force entry into the building knowing that people were trapped," said McNicholas.

A total of eight people, including five residents, were taken to hospitals, though none with life-threatening injuries. The stubborn fire was eventually put out.

"The smoke was coming down so deep, you couldn't see nothing," said Jones.

"Substantial damage to the building, what you see on the outside does not necessarily indicate what's on the inside," said McNicholas.

Most of the people taken to hospitals were suffering from smoke inhalation.