Firefighters stand outside 7848 26th St. in North Riverside after extinguishing a fire there on March 24. | Bob Uphues/Editor

Three people were taken by paramedics to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and several more were displaced by a fire in a top-floor apartment at 7848 26th St. in North Riverside on March 24.

The six-unit building remained off limits to residents as of March 27 with a family member of the owner telling the Landmark that “everything is in limbo” at this time.

None of those taken to the hospital was seriously injured, but the east apartment on the top floor of the building, to which the fire was contained, was gutted by flames. The building’s other units sustained smoke and water damage.

The blaze was initially reported at about 5:50 p.m. by a North Riverside police officer who was conducting a traffic stop, along with another police officer, on the south side 26th Street near Keystone Avenue.

One of the officer noticed black smoke “billowing” from the upper level of the apartment building, and the other officer called the emergency dispatch center to report an active fire.

The two police officers ended the traffic stop and responded to the scene of the fire. Doors to the building were locked, so they forced them open and first went to the first floor and garden units to evacuate anyone still inside. Getting no response from inside those units, police forced open the doors to make sure they were clear.

Heavy smoke prevented police from being able to get to the top-floor units, but they located several tenants standing outside at the rear of the building. Police learned that one tenant might still be inside the west unit on the top floor and went back inside to try to make contact.

Officers yelled for the resident to come down, and the tenant made their way down by following the officers’ voices, according to the police report of the incident.

A resident who lived in the top-floor east unit reportedly told police he was sleeping when he was awakened by a loud pop, followed by a sizzling sound. After that the resident saw flames and smoke in the main living area of the apartment.

That resident along with his mother and sister immediately left the unit and exited the building.

Fire department officials said the cause of the blaze was still under investigation. North Riverside officials enlisted the Red Cross to help those tenants displaced by the fire. 

In addition to the apartment where the fire was contained, firefighters had to break 11 windows and cut a hole in the roof to vent the fire, and 14 doors that had been forced open had to be secured.