Officers alert residents to fire
June 20, 2007 (WLS) -- Dozens of people were rescued from a burning South side apartment building early Wednesday morning.
The fire started at about 1 a.m. near the intersection of 76th and Halsted and a pair of quick thinking police officers are being called heroes.
Police said the fire started in a closet of an unoccupied apartment on the third floor. Between 75 to 100 residents were in the building when smoke starting filling the hallways. most were asleep.
Two Chicago police officers from the 6th District were in the area responding to another call when they noticed smoke coming from the building. They called it in and then ran into the building to get people out.
"As we went up, the smoke got thicker and thicker," said Officer Steven Sanders. "It was hard to breathe but we still kept knocking on doors to get people out of their apartments."
Most of the damage was contained to the third floor and neighbors say the fire alarms in the hallways were working and helped to get people up.
"The smoke alarm had went off then. That's how I knew it was a fire and I was smelling smoke," said resident Chiquita Binion. "Me and my kids, I had waked them up, told them to put on some clothes. Then we had like rushed downstairs."
The two officers say the evacuation was smooth and the residents were able to remain calm while the fire department put out the blaze.
"Everyone responded very well," said office Richard Griffin. "I was very happy that it went that way as well as not going into a panic which would have made the situation much worse."
Officer Sanders graduated from the Chicago Police Academy in May while Officer Griffin has been with the force for six years. Residents from the building have similar messages for the brave officers.
"Thank you, God bless you, we love you," said resident Priscilla Johnson. "They did a real good job."
Pastor Betty Fields and her husband Simmie run a small church on the first floor of the building. Aside from a little water and smoke damage, the church is ok. Even though they weren't there last night during the fire, they also have a message for the two officers.
"I'm thankful to God for them," said Betty Fields. "I'm very grateful, grateful that they were on the job and that they were watching. It's a blessing, not only to us but to the people of the building."
Investigators have determined the fire started in the closet of an empty third floor apartment.
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