Joel Gonzalez, his mother and his sister were in their second-floor Northwest Side apartment on West Parker Street late Thursday when Gonzalez’s mother heard a smoke alarm sounding in a rear stairwell of the building.
“She opened the (back) door slightly, and she smelled smoke and right away she started saying, ‘Fire! Fire! Fire!” Gonzalez recalled.
The family got out safely but soon learned from firefighters that two bodies had been pulled from the basement.
A Chicago Fire Department spokesman said the fire — in which two women were found dead — is being considered suspicious after a state fire marshal dog alerted for the possibility of an accelerant at the scene. Chicago police detectives are investigating.
The fire was reported just before 11:40 p.m. in a basement apartment in the 4500 block of West Parker, according to Fire Media Affairs.
Two women were found dead in the garden-level apartment after a fire in this Northwestside building. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times
Two females, thought to be in their mid-twenties, were found dead inside, fire media said. One female was found in a basement stairwell and the other was found in a back basement room, a police source said.
Their identities had not been released by the Cook County Medical Examiner as of Friday afternoon.
The first-floor residents were not home at the time of the fire, and third-floor residents planned to stay with family members and did not require placement, according to a police source.
The unit had no smoke detectors, but members of the fire department will pass out smoke alarms and safety information near the scene of the fire at 10 a.m. Friday, fire media said.
Rosa Negron, Gonzalez’s mother, had remarked earlier Thursday that it looked as though the tenants in the basement had moved out. The curtains in the front window had been removed and only a bare mattress could be seen on the floor, Gonzalez said.
The basement tenants — three women and a man — moved in in late June, Gonzalez said. At some point, one of the women moved out. Gonzalez said nothing in particular stood out about the tenants.
“Once in a while, they’d have a little spat outside,” Gonzalez said. “It never got to the point where something needed to happen.”
When Negron returned home from work about 9:45 p.m. Thursday, she smelled something by the front stairs, Gonzalez said.
“She said it smelled like something was rotten,” he said. “I told her it was probably garbage.”