A stubborn fire consumed a Forest Park multi-unit building in the 7700 block of Monroe Street overnight Dec. 30-31, taking almost 12 hours to extinguish. The fire is thought to have begun in the basement of the three-flat around 11 p.m., but quickly entered the building’s walls and continued to flare up as between 50-60 firefighters battled the flames in the bitter cold overnight.
“The firefighters thought they had it struck around 5:30 a.m., but it started rekindling again,” said Mayor Anthony Calderone. “It was noon before we had a company boarding it up.”
Neighboring fire departments from Oak Park, River Forest, Maywood, Stickney, Berwyn, Broadview and North Riverside assisted with the blaze.
“At one point Deputy Chief McDermott told me they were using 1,000 gallons of water per minute on the structure,” Calderone said. Calderone said the age of the wood in the building and the likely “balloon construction” made the structure more susceptible to fire. The building was listed as being built in the 1920s. Calderone said neighboring properties were not damaged.
Ten residents, including some children, were safely removed from the three units in the building, but everything they had is destroyed, Calderone said. Some residents were able to stay with families, but others were helped with temporary shelter by the Red Cross.
Neighbor Storey Gram said she heard screaming in the street around 11:30 p.m. that the house was on fire. She said neighbors watched the flames late into the next morning.
“The fire just kept coming back,” she said. “It was surreal; the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Thursday morning a backhoe was tearing down the addition behind the building. The roof, floors and windows of the structure were gone and neighboring shrubbery was filled with icicles.
“I’m just trying to make sure it is safe,” said building owner Farzad Khaledan, of River Forest. “There were three families there and everyone is safe, thank goodness.”