Back of the Yards fire spreads to 3 homes; at least 29 displaced

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An abandoned home, along with two homes next to it, will be demolished after they were destroyed by a three-alarm fire in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood overnight.

"They're uninhabitable. They're open and dangerous at this point. The middle building is leaning, ready to fall down, as we speak," said Battalion Chief Quinn Brennan, Chicago Fire Department.

At least 29 people were displaced by the fire in the 4600-block of South Honore Street. Tomas Galan lives next door. He got his family out in time, but everything he has is gone.

"Just get his wife, his son and get them out. Whatever they first saw, that's what they got and ran out of the house," said Diana Perdomo, Galan's niece.

Neighbors said the house that caught fire around 1:30 a.m. Friday has been a problem in the area for a long time. It's known as a haven for drugs and squatters.

"He said he's been reporting that house for a long time because there's been a lot of drug addicts and stuff. A lot of people threw garbage in there and stuff like that. Homeless people go into that house. That house needs to be torn down. The police don't do anything about it. The alderman doesn't do anything about the building. I call every day, every day. They need to knock down that building," said a neighbor named Vincent Fuertes, translated by Sonia Cardenas.

Alderman Raymond Lopez (15th Ward) said the building has been vacant for years and was on his target list.

"The laws are stacked against us when it comes to the city taking control of an abandoned building and demolishing them. It's a drawn out process. If we skip a step or change owners, we go back to square one," Lopez said.

The alderman said he has more than 600 abandoned buildings in his ward. About 75 of them are in Back of the Yards alone.

"The solution, in the short term, is that we will continue to secure and demo buildings that are threats to our community. But we definitely have to look at some of the laws that are hindering our efforts," Lopez said.

Lopez said in the past week, four to five houses have been set on fire in the neighborhood. He's working with authorities to see if this fire is connected.

The blaze was extinguished by around 4 a.m. No injuries were reported.
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