Dozens of families were displaced when a massive fire destroyed an apartment building in far northwest suburban Woodstock early Saturday, officials said.
Firefighters responded to reports of a structure fire in the 2100 block of Willow Brooke Dr. around 3:18 a.m., according to a statement from the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District.
“It was called in by a neighbor who was out walking the dog,” said Woodstock Fire Chief Michael Hill. That neighbor was Abi Sanchez, who also assisted in alerting the building’s residents, authorities said.
“I ran downstairs, tried to buzz all the apartment complexes in that unit and tried to let them know that their building is on fire,” Sanchez said.
First responders said that upon arrival, flames could be seen extending into the attic from the second floor balconies of the two-story building. Police and fire officials then evacuated the building, including one woman who was trapped inside her apartment. Authorities said she was taken to Centegra Memorial Medical Center, where she was treated for smoke inhalation and later released.
“A cop was knocking on the door saying there was a fire, so I got up,” said James Palubicki, who lived in the building.
“It progressed so bad,” he added. “I was just watching it and I couldn't believe it; it was just spreading.”
It took around two hours to bring the flames under control, though firefighters remained on the scene for several more hours, checking for and extinguishing hidden fires, as well as helping residents recover their personal belongings.
None of the 55 firefighters involved in the effort were injured, authorities said. [[417097553, C]]
Approximately 50 people were displaced from the building’s 32 units, according to fire officials, who said the entire structure was uninhabitable and initial estimates of damage were around $2.3 million.
“The fact that nobody was injured in this situation and nobody died in this situation is just a blessing and we're so grateful,” said Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager.
The American Red Cross was working to provide temporary housing, and several GoFundMe pages were set up to help the victims, including a recently-engaged couple, another couple planning to get married in August and a woman who lost her cat.
Anyone wishing to assist in relief efforts is asked to call the Red Cross at (312) 729-6100.
The cause of the fire was not immediately known, officials said, though it was not believed to be suspicious and the investigation remains ongoing.