Humboldt Park Explosion Called “Suspicious in Nature”

Vacant Humboldt Park building collapses amid blaze

A morning explosion that caused an extra-alarm fire to spread to at least two other buildings in the Humboldt Park neighborhood has been ruled suspicious in nature, fire officials said.

The Chicago Fire Department Office of Fire Investigations has determined the fire on Springfield was suspicious in nature and evidence to support that conclusion has been turned over to police, Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. 

A vacant double-address building at 1051 and 1053 N. Springfield Ave. exploded for an unknown reason, causing that building as well as structures at 1045, 1047 and 1055 N. Springfield to catch fire, according to fire Chicago Fire  District Chief Sylvester Knox. The explosion caused the collapse of the building in which it originated.

Police, citing preliminary information, said three buildings -- including the one where the explosion occurred –- were affected by the blaze, according to News Affairs Officer Daniel O’Brien.

A still-and-box alarm was called at 12:20 a.m. and then raised to a 2-11 at 12:34 a.m., and a Level I HazMat was initiated at 1 a.m., according to Fire Media Affairs spokesman Will Knight. The alarm was struck out at 2:30 a.m.

Searches of the buildings were completed and no injuries were reported, according to Knox, who said the vacant building where the explosion occurred was not searched.

“When companies arrived on the scene, we had heavy fire conditions,” Knox said. “We never got into the fire building because there were collapses right away.”

“All occupants got out of the buildings,” he said. “We were happy about that.”

Police officers heard the “monstrous” explosion and were the first on the scene, according to a Harrison District lieutenant. The explosion blew bricks, glass and other debris all over the area, and also blew a hole in the brick building to the south.

Harrison District Officer Frank Alatorre from beat car 1111 is being praised for saving a woman and two children from an apartment inside 1047 N. Springfield.

Alatorre was going into the building when he asked a man running out if anyone else was inside. The man replied, “Yes, my wife and two children,’’ and Alatorre went inside and rescued them, according to an officer on the scene.

About 15 or 20 residents were displaced.

People’s Gas and authorities are trying to determine whether the gas was on or off in the original building, according to Knox.

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