Families displaced after fire on Chicago’s South Side

CHICAGO -- A Christmas morning fire displaced a dozen people on the South Side.

The cold weather was an obstacle for Chicago firefighters who had to search for hydrants that weren’t frozen.

It was somewhere between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. when resident Dartario Smith awoke to a blaring smoke alarm in his building near 104th Place and State St.

“Smoke alarms went off.  I jumped up, looked around my house. I didn’t see nothing of a blaze inside there whatsoever, but you could smell smoke through the whole house, so I went downstairs.”

He says he helped his mother out of their home on the second floor, then raced downstairs where a family of three lived.

When they didn’t open the door he forced his way in to make sure they were ok.

“I pushed the door in, went up in there, looked around and there was a blaze and everything,” he said.  “I just told everybody to get out.”

All of the people in the two-flat got out safely.  One person was taken to a hospital with breathing problems.

The next-door home was also damaged.

In total, a dozen people are now displaced.

Chicago Fire Department officials say the freezing temperature – which had plunged into the teens overnight -- made for difficult conditions.

“We ran into three frozen hydrants due to the weather and we upgraded the alarm to a 2-11,” said Chief Tim Walsh.

The flames tore through the roof, leaving nothing but a burned frame overhead.

Despite losing his home, Dartario says the fact that the fire happened on Christmas Day is helping him keep his perspective.

“It’s bad and it’s terrible.  But material things can be replaced.  Lives can’t be replaced.”

The cause of the fire has not been determined yet.

The Red Cross is helping victims with basic needs right now.

Smith and his mother will stay in a hotel and then with family while they figure out where they’re going to move.