CHICAGO — Chicago police say arson was behind an extra-alarm fire that injured five adults and a child at a West Side apartment building Monday morning in South Austin.
Fire broke out just before 5:30 a.m. Monday inside a four-story building at Laramie Avenue and Congress Parkway on the West Side, according to the Chicago Fire Department.
As more than two dozen residents rushed to escape, they found stairwells blocked by flames. Rescue crews arriving on the scene spotted residents hanging from windows as they tried to get away from flames and smoke on the top two floors.
"We didn't even know which way to come out, the door front door was blazed with fire," resident Brianna Toney said.
With the stairs inside the building burned out, officials said, firefighters were blocked from quickly climbing to the upper floors. As firefighters arrived, other residents were jumping into action.
"We ran upstairs and did door by door and got everyone out; a young lady was in their with her little baby," resident Delmario Hill said.
Resident Diamond Benjamin lives in the basement level and was able to get out a side exit. Seeing a woman hanging from a nearby third-floor window, he told her to jump.
"We heard a lady hollering I seen her legs hanging I told her jump. She was naked so I gave her a t-shirt and she went in the ambulance," resident Diamond Benjamin said.
Firefighters used multiple ladders to rescue trapped residents, including carrying a child from a second floor window, pulling a total of 10 people from the apartment building.
They climbed the ladders, had to knock the windows out; I heard glass shattering, getting people out, bringing them back down," resident Diamond Foster said.
The woman who jumped from a window suffered a sprained ankle, and was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital. Four other adults were transported to the hospital, one in serious condition and the others in good condition. The child is also listed in good condition.
"I'm happy everyone made it out and is OK; it's material stuff, it can be replaced; I'm glad no one lost their lives," Diamond Benjamin said.
Around 150 firefighters pitched in, striking out the blaze by 6:30 a.m. Monday.
Nearly 30 residents are now displaced, and have been taken to a building at 55th Street and Washington Boulevard for temporary housing.
After a few hours on the scene, investigators with CPD determined determined the fire was an arson.
"They're saying too it's possible someone in the building did it the way the flames were going it was someone in there," Brianna Toney said.
No word yet from investigators on where exactly inside the building the fire originated. Inspectors determined it was not safe for anyone to re-enter.
Inspectors from the Building Department were on the scene Monday to determining whether the building is safe to re-enter.