AUSTIN — Four people were hospitalized after an apartment fire in a West Side building this morning, including a 3-year-old girl.
The fire started shortly after 1 a.m. at 553 N. Central Ave. in Austin, fire officials said.
The 3-year-old child and a woman in the three-story building were taken to Stroger and West Suburban hospitals, both in grave condition, officials said. Another woman was taken to Loyola Medical Center in Maywood in serious condition and a man was taken to West Suburban Hospital, and his condition was stabilized.
ABC7 reported the fire was likely caused by a space heater that was placed too close to a sofa in one of the apartments in the three-story building. Space heater fires typically happen during extremely cold winters when temperatures reach sub-zero, Chicago Fire Department Spokesman Larry Merritt said.
The incident was “not an elevated alarm” fire, Merritt said. But even though the fire wasn’t particularly difficult to contain, it posed a serious risk to residents because “there weren’t any smoke detectors in the building,” Merritt said.
“Without a smoke detector, often times people are overcome by smoke before they even know a fire is happening,” Merritt said.
Smoke detectors have been required for all homes in Illinois since 1988. According to the city’s building code, landlords must ensure all apartments have working smoke detectors installed. Landlords can be fined $1,000 per day for failing to provide smoke alarms in their rental units.
“We say this after every tragedy, but It’s important to have a working smoke detector in every unit, every home, because it provides time for people to get out in an emergency,” Merritt said.