Fire claims 2 lives in Little Village

September 24, 2009 (CHICAGO) The fire broke out just after midnight Thursday in the 2700-block of South Keeler. Firefighters were back on the scene at 6:30 a.m. after the fire reignited.

It was just after midnight when the first 911 call came in to report the fire. Crews were already en route when officials were flooded with dozens more calls from frantic neighbors. That prompted dispatchers to rush additional crews to the scene.

"The first crews arrived on the scene approximately three minutes after the first call and found a heavy, large volume of fire from the rear of the building, that it infiltrated into both units," said Dep. Chief Patrick Malone, Chicago Fire Department.

Relatives of the deceased victims comforted each other and watched as firefighters tried to save their loved ones. The fast-moving fire trapped several people in the Little Village neighborhood. Two of them died. Patricia Policky was a 70-year-old mother. And her son, Richard Policky, was 44.

Four other people were taken to area hospitals. That number includes two firefighters treated for minor injuries. Firefighters were able to save two people using ladders. Those victims escaped the thick smoke and flames by walking out onto a ledge.

"Two of the victims were rescued from that second floor, from that second floor area there. They came out through the window," said Dep. Chief Patrick Malone, Chicago Fire Department.

Tommy Pagan and his pregnant girlfriend were rescued from the roof where he called 911.

The firefighters were treated and released. As for the other people who were hospitalized, the pregnant woman, 24-year-old Jessica LaPorta, went into premature labor and is only six months pregnant. She was able to get medication very quickly from doctors to stop that process, and she is reportedly resting comfortably at Cook County Hospital. A man in his 50s - another son of Patricia Policky - was listed in fair condition.

Neighbors said the Polickys, who are long-time residents of that Little Village block, were very well liked.

"They helped whoever they could," said neighbor Laura Knych. "Matter of fact, they had three people staying downstairs that got out that had no place to go, let them stay there."

There were no smoke detectors in the home. Flames shot out of all three floors during the fire's peak. Police guarded the home Thursday, calling it a crime scene until a cause was determined.

"I'm very sad. I'm very upset, you know, it's a tragedy," said family friend Barbara Kielminski.

Kielminski's ex-husband is related to the two people who died.

Other friends remember Richard Policky as quiet and kind.

"Richard was a quiet person but strong," said Joel Estrada. "He wasn't much of a talker."

"He went to work every day even though he was disabled. He had, like, one hand. He went to work every day, came home. He had a girlfriend," said neighbor Sherry Charles.

Richard Policky and his mother lived on the second floor. Patricia Policky's grandson, who lived in the attic with his 24-year-old pregnant girlfriend, escaped.

Robert Policky, Patricia Policky's other son, lives on the first floor. He is in his 50s and was last listed in fair condition.

Neighbors say Robert Policky would rent his floor out to several other people at a reduced rate, some of whom may have also been inside at the time.

"I saw flames. The flames were 10 feet high coming out the window," Estrada said.

One thing that investigators are considering as a possibly theory is that perhaps a stray gunshot from within the home or outside the home was fired off, and that might have ignited a main natural gas line. The bomb squad is investigating.

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