A half-dozen residents escaped an early Friday morning fire unharmed, while five firefighters were hit by a collapsed chimney and suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze, fire officials said.
All five firefighters were treated at Ellis Hospital and released within hours, officials said.
Firefighters were called to 1585-1587 Van Vranken Ave. just after midnight Friday morning, receiving multiple calls for heavy smoke.
Inside the address were four apartments, two occupied at the time. Everyone got out by the time firefighters arrived.
Firefighters arrived and found heavy smoke in multiple apartments. They fought the fire from the inside for about 20 minutes before moving the efforts to the exterior, officials said.
As firefighters fought the blaze from the outside, though, the home’s chimney collapsed, sending bricks down the roof and hitting five firefighters.
The firefighters were all in the same area, Fire Chief Michael Della Rocco said. They were also already huddled against the smoke and heat as they worked.
“When the collapse occurred, that position that they were in may have helped them a little bit,” Della Rocco said. “But the fact is it could have been much worse.”
The investigation into the fire continued Friday afternoon, but it is believed to have been accidental, Della Rocco said. A resident reported leaving cooking unattended in the area where the fire started.
In all, five people lived in the building full time. Two others may have also been there, Della Rocco said. All escaped without injury.
The local Red Cross offered assistance to the residents.
The apartment home itself was a total loss, with what was left taken down by a demolition company by the afternoon. The city was working with the building owner to determine insurance coverage for demolition, Della Rocco said.
After the chimney collapse, at least two of the firefighters needed help out of the rubble, Della Rocco said. All five were treated and released from Ellis Hospital by late morning.
The firefighters were between the building and a neighboring house, trying to extinguish the blaze and save the other building.
There was also next to no visibility, Della Rocco said, obscuring the chimney from view. Weather conditions, he said, helped keep the smoke low to the ground.
“I spoke to one of the firefighters who was injured,” Della Rocco said, “and he said they couldn’t see anything.”
The chimney came down with no warning, with the roof failing as well, Della Rocco said.
Helmets, masks and their breathing apparatuses helped deflect the blows, he said.
Injuries ranged from a back injury and mild concussion to bumps and bruises, he said.
Della Rocco identified the injured firefighters as Thomas Favata, Adam Colvin, Mark Barkyoumb, Aimee Parlatore and Lt. Ben Yauchler.
Della Rocco said he doesn’t expect any of them to be out for long. He’s already had some of them come in with doctor’s notes to get back to work. Della Rocco said
Collapsing chimneys are one of the many hazards of firefighting, Della Rocco said, and what happened is a reminder to firefighters that a fire presents a very dynamic situation.
“Our people always rise to the challenge that they’re faced with,” Della Rocco said, “and they did a great job with a difficult situation last night.”