Photo by Dermot Connolly
No injuries were reported but 56 people were left homeless following a fire that broke out Christmas morning in a 40-unit condo building at 9954 S. 84th Terrace in Palos Hills.
By Dermot Connolly
The American Red Cross, Kiwanis Club, city officials and neighbors are assisting the 56 people left homeless by a Christmas Day fire in a 40-unit building in Palos Hills.
North Palos Fire Protection Chief Paul Mackin said firefighters responded to the two-alarm fire in the Green Tree Condominiums at 9954 S. 84th Terrace reported at 2:50 a.m. Dec. 25.
“ It took about an hour and 40 minutes to put out,” said Mackin. “We know it began in a downstairs utility room but the cause is still under investigation.”
Palos Hills police helped to evacuate the building but few if any people had to be physically carried out, according to Mackin and the police department.
“ About eight or 10 units were damaged by the fire, but Palos Hills building inspectors determined the entire building was uninhabitable,” said the chief.
According to information provided by Mayor Gerald Bennett’s office, all the units in the building sustained smoke damage.
The Red Cross was contacted to assist with the needs of the displaced residents. Due to the extremely cold temperatures, any residents who did not have a place to go were advised to relocate to the Palos Hills Parks and Recreation building at 8455 W. 103rd St., which was used as a warming center. The Red Cross then provided them with hotel rooms and other places to stay for the immediate future.
Most of the building has structurally been saved, but the mechanical infrastructure is destroyed, Bennett said in the statement.
“ The city of Palos Hills is extremely grateful to the American Red Cross for placing all families in need at local hotels and providing meals. The city continued working with the Red Cross throughout the weekend. identifying housing needs and other assistance for our residents. The Palos Hills police chief and the city’s Building, Public Works, and Resource & Recreation commissioners worked extensively on Monday with building management to safely secure the building, identify necessary building repairs and determine the types of assistance needed by displaced residents,” said the mayor.
‘ The city continues to work with the Red Cross and other social agencies in an attempt to identify alternative rental locations, which is one of the most important needs at this time. The city has also determined there are financial needs for some of these residents,” he continued.
Immediately after the fire, several Palos Hills residents began coordinating donation efforts online, with information shared on social media including the Palos Hills Community Facebook page. Donations are still being accepted from Tuesday through Saturday at the New Beginnings Church at 11111 S. Roberts Road.
“ After I saw the post about the fire on The Palos Hills Community Facebook page, I decided to help out, along with Shari Schmidt, another resident of Palos Hills. I don’t know any of the victims, but I just wanted to help people in my community the same way, I would hope others would help if this happened to me,” said Michelle Havlick McDougall. “The response from the community has been extremely supportive. Lots of donations were received and the families are so appreciative. The most needed items now are monetary donations and gift cards. Once families have an opportunity to get back in and go through their belongings at their homes, we might be collecting items like furniture and other household items,” she added.
The Hills Kiwanis Club has agreed to coordinate monetary (check form) and gift card donations to those families in need. Anyone interested in donating may drop off checks (made out to the Hills Kiwanis) or gift cards to the Palos Hills Community Center, 8455 W. 103rd St. Because the Community Center will be closed during the holidays, donors are asked to contact Mike Lebarre from the Hills Kiwanis at firstname.lastname@example.org and he will make arrangements to pick up donations.
Bennett said the city appreciates the charity of residents and thanked North Palos Fire Protection District, American Red Cross and the city Departments for their “extraordinary efforts in providing an immediate response and continued support to those directly affected by this unfortunate tragedy.”
“The city will continue to work to help those in need,” said Bennett.