Oak Park authorities investigating cause of explosion, fire in residential building that injured 1

ByTre Ward and Maher Kawash WLS logo
Thursday, July 27, 2023
Oak Park authorities investigating cause of explosion, fire that injured 1
Investigators returned to an Oak Park residential building where an explosion and fire injured one person.

OAK PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- Investigators continue to investigate a fire and explosion in an Oak Park residential building that injured one person Wednesday.

The Oak Park fire chief could not confirm just yet that this was a natural gas explosion but did say the damage visible in the front yard is not normal for a standard fire.

Village officials said Oak Park firefighters and police responded to the 200-block of South Maple Street for a fire with "collapsed sections of wall" Wednesday afternoon.

Nicor said it is working with investigators to find out what happened.

The 12 people who live inside the six-unit building have all been displaced after the suspected gas explosion.

A male victim was taken to Loyola University Medical Center in critical condition, authorities said. Village officials said he lives in the home where the fire broke out.

Neighbors said he lived alone and kept to himself.

"Our hearts go out to the family of our neighbor who was involved in the situation that happened, and we just hope that he pulls through," said Diane Colchamiro, neighbor.

Richard Hanersma came home just after 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to find his residence of 20 years reduced to rubble.

"It's pretty horrible and the fire department unfortunately destroyed my back door and windows with massive damage so I have that to worry about in addition to this," Hanersma said.

Ethan Colchamiro lives inside and was with his daughter as they felt the ground start to rumble.

"The street was so black with smoke you couldn't see right in front of your face," Colchamiro said. "I walked outside and I could see smoke coming out of the end of the build and eventually it started blazing, the trees lit on fire and then the wall of the building started crumbling."

Oak Park fire said it's still too early to know what exactly caused this devastating damage.

Some people who live there said they smelled gas and others living nearby heard the initial blast of noise.

Oak Park Fire Department Chief JT Terry said the conditions of this fire along with the extreme heat outside made for some difficult circumstances.

"This is very scary there were a lot of residents in the building at the time so we're fortunate and thankful nobody else was injured," Chief Terry said.

The most serious damage comes from the east side of the building.

Chopper7 was over the building, where walls and windows were visibly blown out. There also appeared to be damage to the building's entryway, and a hole in the roof possibly made by firefighters as they responded to the blaze. A large pile of debris and bricks was visible on the lawn next to the collapsed walls.

The state fire marshal is expected to take over the investigation.

There were no further reports of injuries to residents or firefighters. The American Red Cross is assisting residents who have been displaced.