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Extra-alarm fire destroys Lower West Side Chicago apartment house, spreads to neighboring homes

Flames engulf apartment buildings in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood
Flames engulf apartment buildings in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood 02:06

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A fireball shot into the sky Thursday evening as an apartment house went up in flames in Pilsen.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 8:15 p.m., and found flames raging at the two-and-a-half-story, multi-family frame house at 1355 W. 16th St., Chicago Fire Department Assistant 1st District Chief Jim McDonough said

The building was vacant and was being remodeled at the time, he said.

Firefighters immediately launched a blitz attack – directing two hose lines on the house while protecting nearby homes.

The Fire Department raised a 2-11 alarm for additional equipment and manpower. A 2-11 alarm brings 32 pieces of fire equipment and just short of 100 firefighters, McDonough explained.

The fire did spread to two nearby buildings to the east and west – both of them constructed from a wood frame with a brick veneer, and both of them occupied, McDonough said. The fire spread to the attic of each building, McDonough said.

Both of those buildings were occupied, and everyone was evacuated.

Cellphone video showed just how intense the flames were – as a column of fire engulfed the whole structure at 1355 W. 16th St. Video also showed flames on the roof of the neighboring building to the west at 1353 W. 16th St.

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Neighbor Isabela Vielma-Reyes was frantic that the fire was going to spread to her house.

"I got a pretty frantic call from my dad, saying that a house next to his was on fire, and I ran out to my balcony, and I'm across the street from here, and I was able to see that the house three doors down was completely engulfed in flames," Vielma-Reyes said. "It was really scary – those first, like, 20 minutes – it was really just, is the whole block going, or is it just a few?"

The house where the fire started ended up collapsing. Photos provided by the Fire Department showed nothing left of it but a pile of charred timbers.

There were no reports of injuries in the fire. The cause remained unknown late Wednesday.

Chicago Fire Department
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