West Side woman loses everything in fire – except her gratitude

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CHICAGO -- Three people were injured in an extra alarm fire Sunday morning on Chicago’s West Side, leaving a long-time resident is looking for a place to live as authorities investigate the cause.

Two people suffered smoke inhalation, and another was treated for exposure to the extreme cold Sunday morning.

Patrice Ammons said she did lose a lot in the fire that destroyed her West Side home of 20 years – but not everything. For one, she had gratitude for the firefighters who saved her.

“You can replace material things, but you can’t get your life back, and all of us are safe because of them,” Ammons said.

Ammons said sometime between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. Sunday, her brother – who lives with her in the first floor home – told her something was burning.

"My brother is here with me – he has stage four cancer – and he came about 6 a.m. and said, ‘I smell smoke,’ so I got up and came to the front door and my neighbors were hollering: 'It’s a fire!’”

The back of the two story building was in flames, which ripped through the roof, and engulfed the whole back wall. She says all three people in the home got out safely.

“I really want to tell the firemen thank you, I got my brother out, and I couldn’t get back. That fireman did not hesitate, he took off his cap, he went in blind and I wish I knew who he was, so that I could say thank you.”

The fire had escalated to two alarms –at the time temperatures in the city were hovering around zero degrees.

“Men and women of the Chicago Fire Department did a great job under these circumstances," said CFD District Chief Mark Townsend.

Eventually more than 100 Chicago firefighters responded.

Later in the day, as the house was being boarded up, Ammons returned with her family to collect clothes and whatever possessions could be salvaged.

“You can’t go back for pets, you can’t go back for purses, you can’t go back for material things – you do what’s important, and that is to save yourself.”

Patrice Ammons lost her home and most of what she owns, you can’t control the circumstances, she says, but you can control your attitude.

"We’re all ok, and we’re going to be alright," Ammons said. “We’ll see how it goes, but the fact that we are all alive is worth it, we’re going to be ok.”

Ammons says her brother, the cancer patient, was being observed at west suburban hospital. She’ll stay with family for now, and the Red Cross is assisting. For now, officials say the cause of this fire remains under investigation.