Man rescued from North Side apartment fire

August 22, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The fire started in a first floor apartment of a corner four-story building in the 4700-block of Virginia Avenue in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood. At about 2:30 a.m., building residents started to escape the flames and smoke by coming down the fire escape.

One resident who has lived in the building with her husband for 23 years said the manager of the building, who did not want to be identified, started knocking on apartment doors to alert the residents of the potential danger.

"I just got shook up and nervous," said building resident Peggy Cantrill.

One victim from the fire was put into an ambulance and taken to the hospital. Fire officials said he suffered burns to more than 75 percent of his body.

"He's a nice man. He's a hard worker. He drives a bus," Cantrill said.

Mark Gudger, 27, had just brought his girlfriend Ashely Thavesook home and was visiting her in her first-floor apartment when he smelled smoke in the hallway and did not think anything of it until he heard a resident by the name of Nick Salazar attempting to break the door down of the apartment next door that smelled like fire.

"He was trying to kick it but couldn't get it open. I ran over and I put my shoulder to the door a couple of times and got the door open. There was thick black smoke billowing out and we pulled him out into the hallway," Gudger said.

When asked about the condition of the man he pulled from the apartment, Gudger said "He was still breathing and seemed somewhat conscious but he didn't look too good."

The Wright College student says he does not feel like a hero.

"I did not do anything different from anyone else. The other guy in the apartment did most of everything," Gudger said. ABC7 was unable to reach the other rescuer, Nick Salazar, for an interview.

Gudger's girlfriend has only lived in the building for six weeks. She said residents were worried the entire building would go up in flames.

"They called the fire department while they tried to pull the man out from the building, and my biggest worry was when I saw the fire by the air conditioner -- if there would have been a back draft there could have beena big explosion. So the whole entire time I'm worried about what was going on inside, but then I had to keep my cool," Thavesook said.

Residents say the victim has lived in the building for a few years. He keeps to himself but is friendly with everyone.

Fire officials found the victim in the lobby of the building about 20 feet from the first-floor apartment where the fire broke out. He was taken to Swedish Covenant Hospital in serious to critical condition before being transferred to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood where there isa burn unit.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Residents were sound asleep and some did not even hear the ambulances.

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