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Forest Park Fire Forces 60 Seniors Out Of Their Homes

FOREST PARK, Ill. (CBS) -- One minor injury was reported after an extra-alarm fire overnight at a senior citizens' apartment complex in Forest Park.

Firefighters responded to the fire around 11 p.m. at the Linden House Apartments, a five-story housing complex for seniors in the 1000 block of Des Plaines Avenue.

Approximately 60 residents were evacuated because of the blaze, and many had already begun evacuating before firefighters arrived.


Witnesses said a good Samaritan helped alert residents to the danger.

"I heard a guy honking his car horn and yelling loudly," Jim Perez said. "I heard that he was screaming 'There's a fire!' and was trying to alert people to get them out."

The fire was contained to one apartment on the second floor, but created a lot of smoke, which made evacuating the building a little more difficult.

"The fire attack was complicated by the fact that we had senior citizens self-evacuating from the unit in heavy smoke conditions, so they had to take time to assist people out of the building. The fire unit was completely engulfed in flames," Forest Park Fire Chief Steve Glinke said.

After the building was evacuated, residents first were loaded onto buses as temporary shelter, then taken to the village's community center until they could find a hotel, or a friend's or relative's home where they could stay.

About 30 of them were taken to the Carleton of Oak Park Hotel, about two miles away. The rest were staying with relatives and friends until they can return to their apartments.

"Working collaboratively with the Red Cross, we got them all situated just recently. We just took our last busload over to the Carleton Hotel," said Forest Park village administrator Timothy Gillian.

Now, he must get them their medication.

"What you just saw me loading in my car is all their meds. You know, we went literally door-to-door, and we bagged up whatever medications we could find, so that we could give those to the people that we have," he said. "It was a daunting task."

One woman, who might be the person who lives in the unit where the fire started, was treated for minor burns.

The cause of the fire was under investigation Friday morning.

Glinke said the building was no longer safe for residents, due to smoke and water damage, which also left the elevator non-functional. It could be several days until any residents can move back in, as none of the apartments is located on the ground floor.

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