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Fireworks blamed for extra-alarm blaze that injured woman in Pilsen

Firefighters work contasmoky fire 1323 W. 18th st. Pilsen neighborhood Monday July 4. One perswas injured 2-11 alarm blaze. |

Firefighters work to contain a smoky fire at 1323 W. 18th st. in the Pilsen neighborhood Monday, July 4. One person was injured at the 2-11 alarm blaze. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 7, 2011 2:25PM

Children playing with fireworks sparked a blaze that damaged three buildings in the Pilsen neighborhood Monday afternoon and sent an elderly woman to the hospital.

Fire officials said children started the blaze on the back porch of a building in the 1300 block of W. 18th and it spread eastward to two buildings.

An adjacent structure was the most heavily damaged of the three brick buildings, which all had stores on the first floor and apartments above.

“Before the fire trucks came, the back porch was totally engulfed in flames,” said Estela Balderas, who lives in the neighborhood.

“People were coming out of the front of the building, flames were coming out of the roof, the attic is gone,” she said.

An 80-year-old woman was taken in good to fair condition to University of Illinois Medical Center with smoke inhalation.

Rodolfo Alvarez, owner of the building where the fire started, was looking through the two water damaged rear apartments and wondering how soon he could reopen his hardware store on the first floor.

“This is the way I live, I don’t know anything else,” he said. “I’ve been here 30 years.”

As he spoke, explosions from fireworks nearby echoed down the street.

“I think fireworks are a threat,” he said. “In fact, last night my grandkids were asking me to take them to buy some fireworks.

“I said, ‘Nope, it’s a hazard. We might cause a fire.’ And look, here it is in my own place.”

Contributing, Sun-Times Media

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