By Glenn Jeffers and John Biemer
Tribune staff reporters
Published November 14, 2003
The second fatal fire on the city's North Side in less than 24 hours claimed the lives of three people and left 33 injured after a two-alarm blaze broke out in the basement of a four-story apartment complex in the West Rogers Park neighborhood, fire officials said Thursday.
Twenty people were taken to area hospitals and 13 more were treated at the
scene at 2501 W. Touhy Ave. Wednesday night. The first fire call came in at
10:50 p.m., according to Fire Media Chief Patrick Howe.
The blaze quickly spread through the first and second floors of the 31-apartment complex, said Fire Commissioner James Joyce, who added that stiff winds did not hinder firefighters' efforts to contain the fire or search the building. Twenty fire engines, 15 ambulances and more than 140 firefighters, paramedics and command personnel were sent to combat the fire, Howe said.
Witnesses said that firefighters and paramedics carried at least eight people out on stretchers. Firefighters helped six residents down ladders from the upper floors, Joyce said.
Ruben Soto, 55, found himself choking from the smoke in his apartment. "I punched the window [out] to breathe; there was too much smoke," he said, displaying a bandaged hand Thursday morning.
Gerardo Guzman, 24, said he had left his first-floor apartment after the heavy winds knocked out power in the building and went to a friend's house across the street. When he heard someone yelling "Fire!" outside and saw smoke coming out of the building, he ran out into the street.
"I tried to help a couple of people, but there was a lot of smoke in there," Guzman said.
One person jumped from an upper-story window to the ground, Joyce said. That person was among the injured taken to hospitals.
The Cook County medical examiner's office identified one of the dead as Roger Ferolin, 38. The two others, a man and a woman, were not identified pending the notification of their families.
Fire officials said that the cause of the fire was still under investigation. Walter Mann, the assistant building manager, said the structure had smoke detectors, which sounded Wednesday night. Because the electricity for the building was knocked out, Mann said he anticipated that it would be at least a few days before residents of the undamaged units could return.
The blaze started just about 17 hours after a four-alarm apartment fire devastated a four-story apartment building in the 4500 block of North Malden Street. That fire left one woman dead, 10 people injured and dozens without a place to live. Fire officials had not determined a cause of that fire as of Thursday.
The American Red Cross urged people affected by the fires to call 312-729-6100.
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