Fatal Chicago Hi Rise Fire- If Only…..

The audio of this report can be found at Daily Fire Fix

A Sunday night hi-rise fire in Chicago that spread smoke and heat beyond the room of origin required over a 2-11 alarm assignment and over 150 firefighters to attack, contain, and eventually extinguish.

An EMS Plan 2 was initiated, calling in 11 ambuli as report after report continued to include new victims in need of emergency medical care.  2 firefighters were also injured, one seriously.

When Chicago’s finest arrived at the 21-story residential apartment building at 3130 N. Lake Shore Dr, they reported fire blowing out of a twelfth-floor window and attempted to put the building’s elevators into ‘fire mode’ without success.

Instead, they were forced to hump their hose and other equipment up the fire floor to make an attack, costing precious time which allowed the fire to grow exponentially.

One citizen was coming home from getting take-out food and had taken the elevator to 12.  Its doors opened, and she was blasted by the smoke and superheated gasses, killing her.

Many others reported hearing no alarms but were awoken by fire sirens.  Some residents, unaffected directly by the fire reportedly never woke up until the next morning, unaware how close they came to taking their final breath.

Here's the report from NBC Chicago:


32-Year-Old Dies in High Rise Fire: MyFoxCHICAGO.com

IF ONLY there was a way to alert all the souls sleeping in a burning building to the deadly danger!

IF ONLY we could invent a way that water could be sprayed on a fire right in the area it started immediately as technology discovers it!

IF ONLY we could figure out a way to have each unit’s door automatically close and keep a fire to its unit of origin with walls that could, in some way, be fire rated!

IF ONLY we were able to program elevators to return to the ground floor during a fire and stay there until fire crews could control them for safe use, rather than deliver unsuspecting victims into a 1,500+ degree hellfire death.

Of course, all of this is already possible. So what happened here?

A city ordinance requiring older high-rises to be retrofitted with a modern, connected alarm and detection system BY THIS MONTH was recently extended until 2015 by the city council, according to a Chicago Building Department spokesperson.

Also, older residential buildings in Chicago ARE NOT required to install sprinkler systems, instead they may opt to be evaluated and other safety upgrades can be put in place.

According to NBC Chicago, an employee of this building’s management company, Planned Property Management, declined to comment at the scene. The company’s president and chief executive officer, Robert Buford, was appointed to the city’s Community Development Commission in July.

So, just how much would it cost building owners to retrofit their money-makers with adequate detectors (beyond the first alert local models) and sprinkler systems?  According to the National Fire Sprinkler Association, the cost to retrofit is about $1.50 to $2.50 per sq. ft.


Compare the costs of adding sprinklers and a building fire detection system with the cost to clean up, repair, and rehab the large area unnecessarily burned due to late detection and exponentially uncontrolled growth of a fire taking place in a non-sprinklered environment.

Compare the costs of adding sprinklers and a building fire detection system with the loss of rental income while repairs are being made to the large, damaged area of your money-maker.

Compare the costs of adding sprinklers and a building fire detection system to the cost of having to face litigation following the incident as building owners would face lawsuit after lawsuit from a single incident.

And finally, compare the costs of adding sprinklers and a building fire detection system to the unimaginable loss now being endured by the family and friends of one of the tenants of your money-maker, who when returning to her Lake Shore Drive apartment, was crisped as the elevator doors opened into the gates of hell.

Which costs more?  Which decision is the more fiscally responsible? 

Could it be that, at times, the power of the almighty dollar leaves us unable to rationalize between short term costs and long term gains? 

Stay stoked!


The audio of this report can be found at Daily Fire Fix

Daily Fire Fix is a short audio rundown of what's happening in the fire service. 




  • Kdk2nd says:

    Question – would sprinklers only go off where smoke was detected? Or is it heat? Or does the whole floor activate the sprinklers?

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John Mitchell

Firefighter/Paramedic and a Lieutenant in suburban Chicago

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