Seven people were hurt, one critically, and more than a dozen people were rescued from windows when an extra-alarm fire broke out in an apartment building in the Edgewater Beach neighborhood this morning, officials said.
In addition, 35 people were displaced by the fire, police said. The woman in critical condition was found on a stairway near a second-floor apartment where the 2-11 alarm fire apparently started, according to fire officials.
"She may have been in the unit, we're not sure," said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford. "The lady was in the stairway with lacerations and loss of consciousness. Firefighters brought her down."
Six other people, including a firefighter, were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, they said.
The fire was reported in the 5800 block of North Sheridan Road at about 10:30 a.m. It was brought under control around 11:20 a.m., officials said. An Emergency Medical Services Plan 1 was called, sending at least five ambulances to the scene.
Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas said there was heavy smoke and "people started popping up in the windows, saying they were trapped," when firefighters arrived.
The first truck called for an extra-alarm, "which was a good thing because then they had the equipment to get the people down," Langford said.
Firefighters used 20 ladders in the front and back of the building to bring 20 people out, he said.
Residents said black smoke filled hallways as people tried to escape.
Adam Redearth, who said he lives on the second floor, said his neighbors began to panic as the fire gained strength, and some looked ready to jump out the windows.
"I asked them please don't jump until you have to jump. Nobody did," he said. "It's nerve wrecking."
The fire was largely contained to the second-floor apartment, and the cause was under investigation, according to McNicholas. The entire building was evacuated, McNicholas said.
“We went through every floor,” McNicholas said. “We had reports of people trapped but again kudos to the guys, they escalated the alarm, got the help coming.”
McNicholas said the heavy snow on the ground requires firefighters “to slow down but they move as fast as they can.”
“It takes a lot of work. These ladders are in excess of 300, 400 pounds,” he said, adding
“You’re going slow in the snow, you have the slips and trips … you really don’t know what’s under the snow. The guys have to slow down but they move as fast as they can.”
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