Fire breaks out at Dolton apartment building

April 2, 2011 8:05:21 AM PDT
Dozens of firefighters responded early Saturday to the scene of a fire in south suburban Dolton.

ABC7 is told the building near 144th Street and Lincoln Avenue and was secured by 6:45 a.m. Earlier in the morning, a large amount of hardware from fire trucks, ambulances and police cars was involved in the effort. Firefighters from several suburban departments were on the scene.

By 8:30 a.m., only fire investigators remained.

Residents say the fire in the multi-unit apartment building appears to have started around 5 a.m. Some said they noticed it before firefighters arrived, and approximately 20 people self-evacuated. Because the building is three stories, however, other residents were forced to wait until firefighters set up ladders to them escape the building.

There were reports of someone yelling, "Fire!" to alert other residents as smoke began to fill some apartments. A panic reportedly erupted as everyone began trying to get out of the building at one time.

"I was hanging. I have a friend who's in the ambulance truck now, and he was holding me because I was about to jump," resident Christie Golden said. "I really felt that my life was over. It was smoke when I opened up the front door, you couldn't even walk in the hallway."

A fire chief tells ABC7 Chicago firefighters were able to evacuate approximately 13 people, although it appears more in the building at the time of the fire.

"We had to set up ladders. We had to assist the residents down the ladders. Fortunately, no one was hurt, except one person. One person did jump out of a window. He had to bail out, I guess because his apartment was fully involved with smoke, " said Chief Jerry McCullough of the Dolton Fire Department.

The person reportedly was transported to a hospital after he jumped from a third-floor window.

Authorities say the fire seems to have started in one of the stairwells, which makes it suspicious. The fire department, however, was not yet calling the blaze arson. Instead, they said the fire was under investigation and that it would take a couple of days to determine the cause.

Officials said residents would be able to return to their building after fire investigators finished gathering evidence.