7 dogs dead, at least 12 rescued from Northwest Side house fire - KMSP-TV

7 dogs dead, at least 12 rescued from Northwest Side house fire

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A Monday afternoon fire in the Northwest Side Forest Glen neighborhood left the homeowner in critical condition with "substantial" burns, and left at least seven of his 19 dogs dead.

The fire started about 3:45 p.m. in the back of a home in the 5000 block of West Winona Street, and spread to a home next door, according to Fire Media Affairs.

The homeowner, a man in his 50s, ran out of the house when the blaze started but tried to go back inside, Fire Media Director Larry Langford said. An off-duty firefighter who happened to be in the area kept him out of the burning home until crews arrived.

"If he had gone back in the way the fire was spreading he may have been trapped," Langford said. "We tell people that when you escape a house fire, don't go back in for anything."

The man's clothing was "all burned up" when firefighters arrived, Langford said. He suffered "substantial" burns and was taken to Loyola University Medical Center in serious-to-critical condition.

No one else was hurt in the blaze, but crews rescued 19 dogs from the first floor and basement. Firefighters brought the animals -- some unconscious -- out of the building in blankets and used oxygen masks specially made for pets to attempted to revive them. Seven died, but the other 12 survived.

"I just broke down I was crying the whole time. It was the most horrifying thing to see," said Jelena Novak, a neighbor who witnessed the fire.

It was a tragedy matched by the triumph of firefighters and neighbors who came together to help rescue a dozen dogs trapped inside a burning home.

 "One firefighter came out with like four in his hands and everyone just ran to get the dogs and get them masks and start getting them warm they were all unconscious and they brought some back," Novak explains.

The fire department tweeted several pictures of firefighters treating dogs with oxygen masks.  Then after everyone had left the scene, a miracle dog appeared outside the neighbor's house.

"I don't know how it survived, but he came out and another guy, we were trying to get a dog," Novack says. "I actually crawled under those bushes trying to get the dog out and a man like ripped him out of my hands and just ran to the hospital which is like three blocks away on Elston."

Volunteers from the neighborhood and Chicago Animal Care & Control are making arrangements to care for the injured animals. The dogs were described as poodles, who witnesses say all appeared to be poorly cared for.

The home where the fire started was heavily damaged, and lost its roof. The home next door also sustained substantial fire damage, but is still standing. It wasn't immediately known if anyone from that home was displaced.

Crews are working Monday evening to remove debris from the homes.

"The chief on the scene says he definitely is a hoarder and they're throwing a lot of things out of the house," Langford said. Fire crews have responded to the home before, including once to douse a burn pit in the backyard.

They plan to notify the city Department of Health and Human Services, which will determine what, if anything, will be done with the property, Langford said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.


The Sun Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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