A homeowner escaped from his burning house with his dog in what Oak Lawn fire officials describe as an aggressive fire on Tuesday.
Three firefighters were injured and a "may day" was issued from inside the house when a firefighter was briefly unaccounted for, Oak Lawn Fire Chief George Sheets said.
One firefighter was treated on the scene; the others were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.
Oak Lawn firefighters rolled up on the scene around 8:50 a.m. after a citizen called 911 to report smoke coming the basement window of a home on the 4900 block of West 99th Street.
By the time the first fire company arrived, the fire was fully involved and back-up companies were immediately sent for.
"It was a very deep seated fire with fire inside the walls and ceilings," Oak Lawn Battalion Chief Norman Rick said. "It was so deep firefighters had to exit the building for a short time and go defensive. We got it knocked down and we were able to get back into the house and extinguish it."
One Oak Lawn firefighter ran out of oxygen and became disoriented. He was briefly separated from his crew and a may day was issued when he could not be found.
"Our bells on our [air tankes] were ringing, that's when our firefighters were leaving. He became disoriented and lost the hose line," Sheets said afterward."When we hear over the radio of a firefighter not accounted for, everybody goes into a different mode."
Sheets added that the loss of CFD Captain Herbert Johnson weighed heavily on their minds as Oak Lawn firefighters went to the last place where the disoriented firefighter was last seen. His crew was able to quickly locate him and escort him out of the house.
Firefighters found the homeowner with soot on his face outside the home. The fire chief said the man had tried to put the fire out himself before he escaped from the house with his Labradoodle.
A neighbor, Barb Enslen, was on her way to work when she saw smoke coming from the basement.
"I just called it in, pulled him aside with his dog and sat with him until the fire department got there," Enslen said.
Sheets said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. The homeowner said he may have fallen asleep while smoking a cigarette.
The fire chief said that the injured are experienced, veteran firefighters. One sustained back and neck injuries caused by another firefighter or object falling him as they attempted to evacuate the burning house. The second firefighter suffered from smoke inhalation. Both are in stable condition and were being treated at Advocate Christ.
The third firefighter was treated at the scene for a second-degree burn on his face.
The homeowner was also treated at the scene for smoke inhalation but did not require hospitalization.
There were no other occupants inside the house. The dog was okay.
The fire occurred across the street the Sward Elementary School polling place.