1 dead, several families displaced after fires on West Side

CHICAGO -- One man is dead and more than two dozen people displaced after a string of arson fires were set on the West Side early this morning.

At least seven separate fires were reported around 3:00 a .m. in the Heart of Chicago neighborhood.  The fires were set in alley trash cans.

In one instance, two buildings caught fire.

Manuel beltran lives on the first floor of a building in the 2200 block of South Blue Island.

“The fire woke me up and I saw the smoke on  the porch from the back of the house,” he said.  “I started worrying about my kids.  I woke them up.  Everybody started crying and running away.”

He was able to get his family outside, then ran back in to help his neighbors.

“I went downstairs. I know people in the basement. I broke the windows and the doors in and crawled in from there because it was locked.  I said, ‘Get out everybody because there is a big fire.’”

Fire officials say 15 adults and 10 children have been displaced.

Just a block away, in the 2100 block of West 21st St, another fire was set in a garage.  A man found dead inside.

Fire officials say the man who died had no signs of trauma and believe he died from smoke inhalation.

Neighbors say he was the caretaker of the house.

Five other fires were reported within a mile radius around the same time on West 21st St and South Wood.

The others were all contained to garages and all expected arsons.

100 fire fighters responded and got all these blazes under control.

Officials say it's a miracle, more people didn't get hurt.

This weekend there is a community drive to help the victims displaced in the fire.  You can bring clothing and other toiletry items to the American Legion Dorman Dunn Post at 2129 West Cermak on Saturday and Sunday between noon to 3 p.m.

The police department's Bomb and Arson Unit is investigating and reviewing surveillance video from cameras in the area.