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Local News

Over occupancy is suspected at Cicero apartment building fire

CICERO – It is still unclear exactly how many people were displaced as a result of a Cicero apartment building fire Aug. 1 that killed a man who was living in the building's attic.

What is clear is that the man had no business living in the attic, which only had one way out, Cicero officials said.

German Mendoza, 23, died from carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of the fire, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.

Police and fire officials are continuing an investigation into the fire that started at about 1:30 a.m. Six of the building's residents were temporarily provided shelter by the town at a motel for a total of eight days following the fire, which heavily damaged the two-story brick structure. Fire officials declared the building uninhabitable.

Other tenants walked away from what was once their homes. Town spokesman Ray Hanania said fire fighters discovered that each floor of the apartment building had been illegally subdivided into several apartments, and that is being looked at by investigators.

"We don't know exactly, because a lot of them, it appears, may have been undocumented," Hanania said. "Apparently there were six or seven nationalities represented, including Eastern Europe."

As for those residents who have not been identified, Hanania said the town has no way of reaching them.

Hanania added that while Cicero has occupancy restrictions in apartment buildings, they are difficult to enforce because "we can't just walk into any building and check to see how many people live in a building."

Whether the owner of the building will be cited for over occupancy has yet to be determined, pending the outcome of the investigation, Hanania said.

The blaze is believed to have started in the rear of the building and was quickly extinguished.

The exact cause is still unknown, but officials believe it was accidental.

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