One dead, nine injured in extra-alarm fire in Kenwood high-rise apartment, Chicago, US
A woman has died and nine others have been injured in a high-rise building fire in Kenwood, Chicago in the US. The fire started shortly after 10h00am on the 15th floor and spread up to the 24th storey as crews worked to contain it at the Harper Square Cooperative residential building at 4850 S Lake Park Avenue. Chicago Fire Department officials confirmed one resident of the building died in the fire and nine others were taken to the hospital. Ald. Sophia King (4th) said the injured included an elderly woman and one fire fighter. The woman who died lived on the 15th floor where the fire started.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Marc Ferman said asking residents in high-rise buildings to remain in their units was to ensure their safety as the structure was built to keep those inside safe. He added that sometimes, fire fighters don't want residents to self-evacuate so they don't put themselves in harm's way. "The high-rise building is fire resistant construction," Ferman said. "It's built with fire separations, doors."
Ferman added that they "lost elevators," which meant the fire fighters had to bring their equipment up 15 flights of stairs. "We evaluated smoke conditions on each floor," Ferman said, "and as conditions worsened, we evacuated those floors."
He said fire fighters “got a list of people who were maybe physically challenged. We got to those units first. We prioritized those guys and then made announcements as we evaluated conditions.”
Harsh conditions with high winds also made things hard for crews.
More than 300 fire and Emergency Medical Service workers responded to the blaze, which began on the 15th floor and travelled.
Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said the conditions of all eight civilians taken to the hospital were stabilised. The fire fighter was transported in fair to serious condition but his injury was minor orthopaedic injury.
"We aggressively attacked the fire," Commissioner Nance-Holt said. "They grabbed the communication systems notifying all the residents of the building of what was going on, which is really important in a high-rise fire."
The Chicago Fire Department confirmed the fire spread to multiple floors of the building, which has 25 floors.
Nance-Holt said the fire started on the 15th floor and spread "up straight vertically" nine floors to the 24th floor where fire fighters were able to contain it. Officials said the wind was such that it pushed the fire vertically, which helped it to spread rapidly. "The fire fighters did an outstanding job, because that fire did not go horizontally," she said.
Chicago Fire Department officials said the building has 298 units, 267 of which were occupied at the time of the fire. A total of 133 units impacted by the fire and more than 100 families were displaced.
As fire fighters battled the flames and debris flew out of the building, emergency crews rushed past our cameras with people on stretcher, as others were loaded into ambulances. CBS 2's Asal Rezaei talked with a close friend of the woman who passed away. The friend said the victim was a retired schoolteacher in her 80s, who was like an aunt to her. "They found an elderly woman deceased from smoke inhalation on the 15th floor - and that's the floor that my aunt stayed on - and I came back because I wanted to check to see how she was doing; if she was okay because I had been trying to call her phone and nobody had been able to reach her," said Jauntanne Mayes, "and then I was just informed that she was the person that passed away."
Cause of the fire determined Chicago Fire Department investigators have determined a deadly apartment building fire on Wednesday in Kenwood was caused by a careless smoker.
In a tweet Thursday afternoon, CFD officials said the Office of Fire Investigation concluded the cause of the fire at Harper Square Cooperative at 48th and Lake Park was "careless use of smoking materials that ignited combustibles in a bedroom," and the fire was deemed accidental.
A smoke detector in the apartment where the fire started was not working at the time, according to the Fire Department.
The Fire Department explained that the building has hardwired smoke detectors in common areas such as hallways. But each residential unit has battery-powered smoke detectors that are not connected to that system and that must be installed and maintained by the unit owners. The detector in the unit where the fire started did not have a working battery, the Fire Department said.
Sources: The Associated Press, CBS News, The Chicago Tribune
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