One dead, one critical after West Side blaze: fire official
BY MITCH DUDEK Staff Reporter June 8, 2014 12:46PM
A woman was killed and a man critically injured in a fire Sunday morning at this home in Humboldt Park. | Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times
Updated: June 8, 2014 8:27PM
A woman is dead and her husband is in critical condition early Sunday after a fire tore through the vacant building where they had apparently been squatting in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, according to the Chicago Fire Department.
The fire began in the vacant building in the 900 block of North Lawndale Avenue about 5:45 a.m., said fire department spokesman Larry Langford.
Firefighters, who put the blaze out in 15 minutes, found the badly burned man inside the home, Langford said. He told rescuers his wife was still inside; firefighters later found her on the second floor of the building. The blaze gutted the brick building.
The woman, in her 40s, was dead at the scene, Langford said.
The man was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition. Both victims were estimated to be in their 40s, Langford said.
Chancellor Turner, 60, sat in his car Sunday afternoon and surveyed the damage.
Turner said he owned the building until several banks took control of the property after filing liens against him in 2006.
Turner said the building became vacant and was quickly taken over by gang members and drug addicts.
Turner said he regained control of the building in January of this year when it became too big of a headache for the banks.
“I’d try to go in and check on the property, but gang members stopped me at the door. They said ‘If you don’t get off the porch, we’ll beat your ass,’” Turner said.
Turner said he hand delivered letters to his alderman, the mayor’s office and various other public officials, asking for help, but never received any responses.
Police, he said, told him the matter was one that needed to be handled in the courts in order to have the people in the home evicted. Turner said he was in the process of trying to get a court order for eviction when the fire broke out Sunday.
Neither Chicago police nor officials with the Chicago Department of Buildings could provide information on the residents or building owner Sunday night.
“It was a crack house. A smoke house. They were coming in and smoking. And the gangs protect them and sell drugs out of here,” Turner said.
A neighbor who asked not to be identified said drug users had come and gone freely from the building for at least three years. She said she once peeked in a window and saw rooms that were empty, except for several mattresses.
Langford said drug paraphernalia was found on the ground near the home, including hypodermic needles.
Three adults and a teenager were displaced from a neighboring home that was partially damaged by the fire, Langford said. Human Services was at the scene to help them find housing.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire