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Family Finds Runaway Pooch After 'Devastating' Rogers Park Fire

By  Benjamin Woodard and Adeshina Emmanuel | January 30, 2013 7:39am | Updated on February 4, 2013 7:05pm

ROGERS PARK — Riley, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, was reunited with his family hours after he ran away from his burning home Wednesday morning.

Friends, family and neighbors scoured backyards and alleyways around a house that caught fire about 5 a.m. and quickly spread throughout the west side of the building.

The home's owner, Ivan Smalley, 70, and a firefighter were injured in the blaze, authorities and family said.

"It's pretty devastating," said the owner's son, Geoff Smalley, who managed to salvage his dad's stand-up bass from its charred case after firefighters extinguished the flames. "My dad is very happy about that."

Geoff Smalley, of Jefferson Park, and his brother, Mike, traveled to Rogers Park to sort through the smoldering wreckage of their childhood home.

Their father was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Evanston and was treated for shortness of breath after being woken by smoke, authorities said.

His family said he was doing well and wasn't sure where he'd be staying tonight.

The firefighter suffered only minor injuries battling the blaze, authorities said.

The fire began in the basement of the two-story building in the 6900 block of North Greenview Avenue, the Chicago Fire Department said.

A neighbor said he heard a "loud bang" shortly after 4:40 a.m. and first thought it was the sound of gunshots. Then he saw the flames.

He called 911, and firefighters were at the scene less than 15 minutes later, the neighbor added.

The fire, exacerbated by an open gas line, spread to all floors, from the basement up to the top floor, authorities said.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control about 7 a.m.

Smalley and his wife, who was stuck in an Iowa airport waiting for a flight when the fire began, lived in the home with their dog, Riley, family members said on the scene.

A neighbor found Riley about 1 p.m. cowering on a nearby porch to stay out of the rain, Mike Smalley said.

The cause of the fire was under investigation, according to family members at the scene.

Kevin O'Neil, also known as the CTA Tattler, owns the other half of the home. The two sections are separated by a firewall that kept out most of the flames, but O'Neil said his home was damaged by smoke.