Updated: February 26, 2013 11:43AM
Two firefighters were injured while battling a fire on the South Side early Tuesday after a porch roof of a vacant home collapsed on them, forcing them through the floorboards and into a basement.
The firefighters suffered minor injuries, but “it could have been a different story” had the basement also been on fire, Deputy Fire Commissioner John Nicholas said.
The fire erupted in the vacant home in the 8800 block of South Parnell Avenue about 3:44 a.m. and quickly spread to a neighboring home where a family lives, authorities and neighbors said.
Aaliyah Russell, who lives across the street, said her brother woke her after the fire erupted and together they rushed to the window with another sibling to take a look.
“We all went to the window and there were big flames,” she said.
Russell said her sister then ran over to the occupied home and woke the family up.
Firefighters arriving on the scene sprayed the outside of the two homes while the two who were later injured attempted to enter the vacant home to search for vagrants and battle the blaze from the inside, Nicholas said.
When two firefighters reached the first-story porch, the roof collapsed and they tumbled through the floor into the basement, suffering injuries common with a fall, Nicholas said.
Their colleagues quickly broke out a basement side window and were able to get the injured firefighters out of the burning building, Nicholas said.
The roof was not on fire when it collapsed on the firefighters, who were taken in good condition to Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, Nicholas said. By about 8 a.m., one of the firefighters had been treated and released from the hospital, according to Fire Media Affairs. The other firefighter was not expected to be admitted to the hospital, according to Fire Media.
Early Tuesday morning the vacant house smoldered as firefighters on an extended ladder hosed down the home next door. A firefighter chopped holes in the roof with a fire axe as flashlights shown from the inside of a burned-out upper story.
A neighbor, who declined to give his name, said residents of the house next door had recently made a number of home improvements.
One woman, who said her sister lived at that house, embraced a sobbing woman as the two surveyed the damage. They declined to answer questions.