CHICAGO (CBS)-- A Monday afternoon fire in the Northwest Side Forest Glen neighborhood left the homeowner in critical condition with "substantial" burns and left at least five of his dogs dead, although nine other pets were dramatically rescued and revived.
The fire started about 3:45 p.m. in the back of a home in the 5000 block of West Winona Street, and spread to a home next door, according to Fire Media Affairs.
The homeowner, a man in his 50s, ran out of the house when the blaze started but tried to go back inside, Fire Media Director Larry Langford said. An off-duty firefighter who happened to be in the area kept him out of the burning home until crews arrived.
"If he had gone back in the way the fire was spreading he may have been trapped," Langford said. "We tell people that when you escape a house fire, don't go back in for anything."
The man's clothing was "all burned up" when firefighters arrived, Langford said. He suffered "substantial" burns and was taken to Loyola University Medical Center in serious-to-critical condition.
No one else was hurt in the blaze, but crews rescued the dogs from the first floor and basement. Firefighters brought the animals -- some unconscious -- out of the building in blankets and used oxygen masks specially made for pets to attempt to revive them. One died, but nine survived.
"It's just rough; tried to save as many as I could," says Michelle Rycraft, who ran to the scene to help gather the animals from firefighters.
Neighbor Mili Jovanovic, whose family home was licked by the roaring flames, says authorities had previously been contacted about the number of animals next door.
Compounding problems for firefighters was the state of the victim's home, where hoarding conditions were present.
"He was a hoarder -- it impeded our progress," Chicago Fire Chief Pat Brennan said at the scene.
Volunteers from the neighborhood and Chicago Animal Care & Control are making arrangements to care for the injured animals.
The home where the fire started was heavily damaged, and lost its roof. The home next door also sustained substantial fire damage, but is still standing. It wasn't immediately known if anyone from that home was displaced.
Crews are working Monday evening to remove debris from the homes.
"The chief on the scene says he definitely is a hoarder and they're throwing a lot of things out of the house," Langford said. Fire crews have responded to the home before, including once to douse a burn pit in the backyard.
They plan to notify the city Department of Health and Human Services, which will determine what, if anything, will be done with the property, Langford said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Contributing: Sun-Times Media Wire. (Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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