By Bob Uphues
When firefighters arrived at 2335 2nd Ave. in North Riverside to put out a fire that had ignited inside the modest brick, two-story home at about 2 a.m. on May 12, they found it difficult to get at the flames.
Possessions stacked wall to wall inside made it so hard to penetrate that it took early crews more than an hour to move five feet inside the front door, clearing items by hand.
"Any time we encounter heavy contents, it makes it that much more difficult to navigate," said Fire Chief John Kiser.
Even after knocking down the main blaze, according to Kiser, fire suppression activities – which included the assistance of about 50 firefighters from neighboring departments -- went on for four hours.
The house sustained extensive fire, smoke and water damage.
"We even had flare-ups during the last hour we were there," Kiser said. "We were chasing hot spots throughout the entire time we were there."
Kiser said the house had to be opened up "extensively" to fight the fire and that the amount of possessions also required firefighters to use excessive amounts of water to battle the blaze.
Asked in what part of the house the fire originated, Kiser stated simply that the cause was under investigation. A man lived in the house by himself, Kiser said. He was able to flee the fire and is now staying at another residence in North Riverside, Kiser said.
However, in the wake of the fire, the ground surrounding the home is piled with possessions that were thrown outside as firefighters fought the blaze. Kiser ordered a security fence to be erected around the property to keep people away.
"I was really concerned about kids in the neighborhood and scavengers trying to go up there and dig through it," Kiser said.
Some neighbors expressed concern about how long it might take to get the property cleaned up as the homeowner's insurance company conducts its investigation. The piles of possession, which include multiple mannequins, could be attractive to rodents, one neighbor said.
North Riverside Village Administrator Guy Belmonte said the village's code inspector planned to contact the homeowner on May 14.
"We're going to let him know he's got to start cleaning it up and clearing out the house," Belmonte said. "Naturally, it's uninhabitable."