Two firefighters have lost their lives, and 19 others seriously injured in a building collapse during a fire this morning in an abandoned commercial building fire this morning at 1744 E. 75th Street in Chicago’s South Shore.
One of the firefighters, 34-year-old Cory Ankum from Tower Ladder 34, had been on the department only sixteen months. Corey had previously served as a Chicago Police officer before joining the city’s fire department. His wife is Mayor Richard Daley’s personal secretary. He is a father of three children under 12 years old, including a one-year old child.
The second firefighter is identified as Engine 63’s Edward Stringer, a 12-year veteran of the CFD. According to “a highly-dependable source” inside the CFD, he was working as a “relief Lieutenant”, covering for another Lieutenant for an unknown reason . Before Stringer went in with the hoseline, the normally-assigned Lieutenant showed up told him he could leave now. Stringer declined the offer, saying “I got it”, and went inside. The ensuing collapse killed him and Ankum.
The tragic fire comes exactly 100 years to the day of another Chicago fire tragedy. On December 22, 1910, 21 firefighters died when a wall collapsed upon them at the Union Stockyards Fire. Until the collapse of the World Trade Center’s twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, no single disaster in the history of the United States claimed the lives of more firefighters.
Many of those responding to the 3-11 fire left services commemorating that event and responded to today’s scene to assist in the rescue effort.
According to Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff, firefighters entered the burning structure because of reports there may have been squatters inside the old laundry and cleaning facility. So far, no other victims have been located.
At one point in the 2-11 fire, a wall collapse occurred, sending the flat wooden roof crashing down on firefighters burying them in the rubble. Instantaneously, a mayday was sounded and rescue efforts were mounted.
The fire was initially brought under control with two lines when the collapse occurred. The alarm was escalated to a 3-11 and an EMS plan 2 bringing in 10 additional ambulances. Two firefighters were quickly rescued, and the other two needed hydraulic tools for their rescue in the rear of the building as the fire continued to progress.
All firefighters have finally been accounted for. The initial accounting was difficult as the fire came in right at shift change. Normally assigned crews were mixed between the two shifts.
Everyday Chicagoans joined firefighters, paramedics, and law enforcement along the streets as the fire department ambulances carrying the bodies of the two Chicago firefighters passed by on their way to the Medical Examiner’s office. Firefighters were too overcome with grief to grant interviews with the press just a few hours after the tragic events.