WHITING | Fire engulfed a nearly century-old building in the city's downtown Sunday, gutting the interior and putting residents of several apartments out of their homes on a bitter cold night.
Nobody was injured in the blaze, Whiting Fire Chief Gus Danielides said.
Flames erupted just after 4 p.m. on the first floor of the building and spread to two upper floors and then to the back of the three-story building at the corner of Sheridan and 119th streets, officials at the scene said.
Firefighters remained on the scene late into the night and into Monday, dousing hot spots that continued to erupt on the third floor and roof of the building. A section of 119th Street remained closed Monday morning in the downtown business district.
The cause of the fire had not been determined Sunday evening, fire officials said.
The building housed Lubia's Dresses and Events shop on the first floor and between seven and 10 apartments in the remainder of the building, officials said.
Apartment residents were evacuated before the fire spread to the upper floors and back of the building, officials said. The dress shop was not occupied at the time of the fire, they said.
Resident Alan Sisco, 34, said he, his girlfriend and their two children, ages 10 and fifteen months, exited the building when police knocked on the door of their second-floor, rear apartment.
"I said, 'Get the kids and let's go,'" Sisco said.
He said he tried to return to the apartment for coats and warm clothing, but police said, "You've got to go, you've got to go."
All of their belongings were believed destroyed in the fire, Sisco said.
People displaced by the fire were being helped at the Whiting Community Center, 1938 Clark St., by members of the Red Cross and the North Township trustee's office.
The two buildings immediately east of the burning structure sustained smoke and water damage, Hammond Fire Chief Jeff Smith said. Three structures to the north and across an alley from the burning building were evacuated as a precaution, officials said.
The building is believed to have been built between 1915 and 1920, officials said.
Firefighters had to shatter the windows at the front of the business to get inside the building, said Christian Loza, who watched from inside the Sunrise Cafe.
Dresses stored in the first-floor shop caught fire and had to be thrown out of the building, he said. Loza said a relative of his owns the dress shop at 1401 119th St.