Fire, explosions char Hanover Park duplex

May 15, 2009 (HANOVER PARK, Ill.) Firefighters say the explosion in the 2100-block of Laurel in Hanover Park happened around 3 a.m. One unit in the duplex was empty. One unit had a family inside.

A neighbor who heard the blast was the first to call 911.

"I went outside to have a cigarette, and I heard a boom. I heard a couple, like a couple of big booms afterwards, because I heard the first one, then a couple of seconds later, I hear another bam," said James Dupee.

Investigators believe it began accidentally in the engine of a car parked in the garage. That car caught fire and exploded, setting off combustible items inside the garage.

The family is safe and staying in a hotel right now. Firefighters say that the car in front of the home caught fire and it was making popping noises that sounded like explosions.

The car still stands in the driveway, charred, like the home. Crews are already boarding up the home. Witnesses say a neighbor saved the family inside.

"We heard these two popping noises. It sounded like a gunshot, I thought. Then he ran. We looked out the window and he saw flames just coming up. So he ran over and just knocked on their door and pounded on their door and went in," said Heather Heskin, aneighbor whose husband, Tom, who left early for work. He heard the explosions around and dashed across the lawn to wake up the family.

"He is just an amazing person, I think. He would have done that for anybody. But I think he's pretty amazing. It was scary. He is a great guy," said Heath Heskin said.

Firefighters say the car engine caught fire and traveled to the garage where potential small explosions from aerosol cans ignited flames. The fire spread, charring the top floor and scrambling most everything inside the home.

"Fire originated in the car. We're going to continue to work on that, try to figure out exactly what set the car off. But it looks like it came from the engine compartment. With the newer vehicles, multitude of things that don't get shut off within the computer systems in the car, so you have always got constant power," said Craig Haigh, Hanover Park Fire chief.

Although family members, a husband, wife, baby, and teenager and one cat were saved, firefighters say one cat had to be put down from severe burns.

"They were really close friends of ours. We thought that they were still (standing) outside, but 20 minutes later we found out that they were safe. We helped them out, gave them sweaters and shoes. We don't know where they are going to stay, but we're pretty sure some will help them," said Katherine Baran.

Late this morning the family came back to the home to survey the damage.

"We need to start a new life," said the teen who lived in the duplex.

"My daughter t(old) me what happened. It's fire outside. I don't know, I am very scar(ed)," said Aieni Lewalski, the teen's mother who also lived in the duplex.

The family also told me that they are getting help from neighbors and community organizations. They also wanted to thank the man that saved their lives.

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