CANARYVILLE — As a demolition crew Monday tore down one of the homes badly burned in a weekend fire, the Chicago Fire Department pegged the likely cause of the huge blaze on careless smoking on a back porch.
Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford tweeted that the 3-alarm fire that started at 4425 S. Union "was likely caused by the misuse of smoking materials on rear porch couch."
Meanwhile Monday, the community stepped up to help, with bags of clothes donated to the fire victims piling up in a nearby church.
“We already gave one of the boys a pair of shoes on the day of the fire,” said Ray Carey, 66, a Canaryville resident and longtime volunteer at Union Avenue Methodist Church, 4356 S. Union Ave.
Donations of clothing, furniture and electronics are being accepted 24 hours daily for the residents who lost their belongings when the blaze broke out Saturday.
“If the back door is closed, the parish front door is always open,” said Sharlene Lira, another Canaryville church volunteer.
Crews at the church will begin sorting the donations to distribute to the fire victims, kids and adults alike. Lira said those uprooted by the fire are welcome to drop by anytime and select items for themselves.
The blaze erupted about 10 a.m. on the back porch of the home at 4425 S. Union Ave. and quickly spread to three other two-story homes at 4421, 4423 and 4427 S. Union Ave., fire officials said.
A 12-year-boy, Edwin Perez, was credited by fire crews with alerting his family and neighbors to the burning building, though neighbors have said others aided in alerting homeowners, too.
More than two dozen people have been displaced in the wake of the blaze, neighbors said.
On Monday morning, neighbors watched as heavy-duty demolition equipment began punching at one of the charred homes, grabbing chunks of the building and spitting them out on the sidewalk.
It’s unclear if all of the homes affected by the fire will be demolished. Some homeowners said they were waiting for insurance inspectors to make the call.
Kathy Shannon's daughter, Megan Lukesh, and her husband Rich Lukesh lived in one of the damaged homes, which also housed the couple's four kids, ranging in age from 5 to 10 years old, plus Lukesh's mother and brother.
“[My daughter] got two pictures out of there, her china cabinet. Everything else was gone,” she said.