Sharda Smith stands in front of her building on Monroe Street after fire Credit: Evan Girard

A dozen Evanston residents were displaced from an apartment complex in the 1600 block of Monroe Street and a firefighter was injured Monday after a fire left several homes uninhabitable, officials said. 

“My kids have no coats, so I’m at the thrift store,” said Renee Irons, who’s lived in the apartment building since 2016. Her family lost all of their belongings in the fire. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”

The fire began shortly after noon in a second-floor apartment. 

Irons said she wasn’t home but her daughter Sharda Smith was, as was her son, who was on the couch watching TV. After hearing the fire alarm go off and seeing smoke from the kitchen, her two children left the house wearing only what they had on. Irons said Smith still had hair dye in her hair and it was more than an hour and a half before they could find somewhere to rinse it out.

Firefighters had to smash open windows in a burning building on the 1600 block of Monroe Street. Credit: Evan Girard

The Evanston Fire Department reported that the responding crew came across heavy fire in the rear of the building and called for backup. 

The fire was under control within 30 minutes and residents were safely evacuated by fire crews upon their arrival. Two cats and two dogs were also saved from the burning building and returned to their families, authorities said. 

Smith, Irons’ daughter, told the RoundTable that the Fire Department arrived quickly and everyone evacuated safely, but the damage is extensive. The fire department had to break the windows of the building using metal tools to help the smoke escape. 

Rear of the building during a Feb. 21 fire on the 1600 block of Monroe Street. (City of Evanston photo)

Irons said that her family will be staying at another relative’s apartment, and, though she’s grateful for that, there’s “nothing like going to your own house, lying in your own bed.”

One firefighter was injured in the blaze and was treated on the scene but did not require hospitalization, fire officials said.

Part of Monroe Street was briefly closed after the fire to give fire officials a place to stage their vehicles, according to a Fire Department release.

This is the second Evanston fire in the past week. On Feb. 16 Evanston firefighters responded to a fire in the 1000 block of Fowler Avenue after someone used a torch to thaw a frozen water pipe, officials said. Only minimal fire and water damage occurred and no injuries were reported. 

Debbie-Marie Brown is a reporter and Racial Justice Fellow at the Evanston RoundTable. They cover the local reparations initiative, Black life in Evanston, and the 5th ward. Contact Debbie-Marie at

One reply on “Fire leaves a dozen Evanstonians homeless, officials say”

  1. I used to live at 1631 Monroe Street from 1968-1971 as my parents owned the building. I’m simply heartbroken to see what happened on Monday. I hope and pray that the 12 residents who were misplaced will be able to return as hopefully the damage isn’t so extreme to the inside that it’s unlivable.

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