Arson suspected in Austin apartment fire that injured 6, including child

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Six people, including a child, were injured after an extra-alarm fire in an apartment building in Chicago's Austin neighborhood Monday morning, the Chicago Fire Department said.

The two-alarm fire was in a three-story apartment building in the 400-block of South Laramie, CFD said. Police are investigating the blaze as arson.

Heavy smoke poured out of the windows and the roof of the Pangea Apartment Complex. Residents said they smelled the fire burning around 5 a.m.

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Firefighters responded to an extra-alarm fire in an apartment building in Chicago's Austin neighborhood Monday morning, the Chicago Fire Department said.



Residents said investigators seemed to suspect arson almost immediately once they arrived at the scene.

"He wanted to know if we had any problems with anybody, were there any fights with anybody, and we said no," said D'Mario Hill, resident. "We've been living here for a while with each other and he proceeds to tell us there's no doubt in his mind that it's arson."

Officials have not identified the materials used to start the fire, but the said it began in the stairwell, blocking those living on the second and third floors from getting out.

Resident Joe Givens said he heard a woman crying and screaming. She was still on the second floor.

"She started yelling, 'Help! Help!'" Givens said. "Her A/C was in the way, so she pushed the A/C out the way and climbed out the window backwards. We told her to jump and we caught her."

"We ran over there. She jumped. We caught her. She hurt her leg, but she's OK," said Diamond Benjamin, resident.

"People weren't opening their doors at first. So I started kicking at their doors," Givens added.




Fire crews believe the fire started near the shared stairwell inside the building. Firefighters used 10 ladders to get people out of the building.

In all, 150 firefighters responded to the scene. Five adults and a child were treated for injuries. All are expected to be OK.

"We had issues because the stairwells were burned out, so companies had to ladder the building," said Deputy District Chief Anthony Ellis, Chicago Fire Department. "We effected multiple rescues."

Mrs. Hill's baby was sleeping on the second floor.

"I could not really breathe, so I got my baby out of the playpen," she said. "It was just in time because that smoke could have gotten into his lungs."

The fire was struck shortly before 6:30 a.m. At least 20 people have been displaced by the fire.
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