A fire in a three-story apartment building in Chicago has resulted in the deaths of six children, and two adults were killed after an apartment fire broke out at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 26th.
The youngest victim, was three months old, and a teenager and young adult were taken to the hospital and are listed in critical condition. A firefighter was also injured while fighting the blaze.
(Eight people, including six children, were killed when a fire broke out before dawn Sunday at a Chicago apartment in one of the deadliest fires in the nation’s third-largest city in years, officials say.One of the children who died was an infant, according to Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago. Courtesy of CBS Chicago and YouTube. Posted on Aug 26, 2018.)
The building did not have a fire sprinkler system, and firefighters were unable to find working smoke detectors within the building.
This is Chicago’s largest fire fatality loss since the Cook County Administration Building high-rise fire that killed six people in 2003.
On October 17, 2003, a fire started in a supply room on the 12th floor of the 35- story Cook County Administration Building in Chicago’s Downtown Loop.
The fire was relatively small, but the supply room was adjacent to one of the two stairwells in the building that employees could use to evacuate during emergencies.
Responding to the fire with 135 firefighters and paramedics and 45 pieces of equipment, the Chicago Fire Department successfully contained and extinguished the fire, but six civilians died from smoke inhalation.
Initial investigations revealed a number of factors that led to the loss of life.
Most notably, the building did not have sprinklers above the lobby as it was built before codes required sprinklers on every floor in skyscrapers.
The building also lacked pressurized stairwells, which block smoke from flowing in, and stairwell “smart-locks” that can be unlocked remotely during emergencies.
The evacuation of the upper floors, as ordered by building security without notifying the firefighters, also contributed to the tragedy.
Fire experts maintain that emptying an entire building is unnecessary during some small high-rise fires.
The workers on the upper floors would have been safe had they remained in their offices.
(Learn More in this radio interview session. Courtesy of WLS Archivist and YouTube. Posted on Jan 13, 2015.)
Chicago does not require fire sprinklers in existing apartments under 80 feet in height and when new apartments are constructed, fire sprinklers are not required until wood construction exceeds 30 feet in height.
There have been three attempts to adopt the International Code Council (ICC) codes, which require all new apartments to have fire sprinklers and existing apartment buildings under 80 feet to have fire sprinklers when renovations occur in the building.
Advocates have been educating and encouraging a change in the law for years, however, all attempts have been opposed by numerous building and real estate stakeholders.
This fire joins other recent fires in underscoring the need for fire sprinklers.
A fire last week in San Antonio, Texas claimed the life of one, while a fire three weeks ago in San Marcos, Texas claimed the lives of five college students.
(A total of five victims have been recovered from an apartment complex in San Marcos that caught on fire, according to the San Marcos fire marshal on Monday. Courtesy of kxan and YouTube. Posted on Jul 23, 2018.0)
Apartment and condo buildings present unique challenges for life safety, and as facts are examined, the realization that built in fire protection is needed becomes apparent.
A fire in Prospect Heights, Illinois in July caused over $10 million dollars in damage to the River Trails condominium complex and placed hundreds of citizens’ and firefighters’ lives at risk.
Not only are lives lost and lives changed forever for those injured, physically and mentally, but it is a loss of housing for the community and a loss of tax base.
Fire in an uncontrolled state is devastating to lives, communities, and this country.
(Flames broke out at a suburban condo complex, burning home after home for several hours . Fire officials had been working for eight hours to put out the blaze, and said they would continue working throughout the night. Courtesy of CBS Chicago and YouTube. Posted on Jul 18, 2018.)
Adopting the latest national building fire codes and standards will save lives and properties for decades to come, as these tragedies are avoidable.
“It’s time for community leaders to realize there are steps they can take to ensure citizens and firefighters are safe,” explains NFSA President Shane Ray.
“Fire sprinklers are needed in apartment buildings. Progressive cities and states have required this for years, some, such as Maryland, for decades.”
“Too many lives are being lost.”
“We need to respond with proactive steps to make these buildings safer.”
The National Fire Sprinkler Association is firm in the belief that fire sprinklers would have changed the outcome of these fires.
The deaths of these unfortunate victims were needless and preventable.
2018 has been a year when, over and over again, our Association has had to respond to fatal apartment building fires across the country.
Astonishingly, sprinklers were required in apartment buildings more than two stories in height and with more than 16 dwelling units in the 2000 edition of the ICC codes.
(The National Fire Sprinkler Association demonstrates the powerful difference between a residence protected by fire sprinklers and one that is unprotected. Courtesy of the NFSA and YouTube. Posted on Apr 20, 2018.)
Eighteen years later, unnecessary deaths are still occurring in apartment building fires across the U.S.
NFSA’s Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board has also responded to this fire, with first-hand information about Chicago issues.
“Smoke alarms warn you when you have a fire and fire sprinklers stop a fire from becoming deadly,” said Tom Lia, Executive Director, Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB).
“Fire sprinklers were not required when this apartment building was built, and sadly, Chicago codes do not require fire sprinklers if this same building were built today.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fires are more deadly today due to modern furnishings.
A fire can become deadly in less than two minutes (NFPA 2018). Fire is fast. Unfortunately, children and older adults often can’t hear a smoke alarm or react fast enough to escape the smoke.
Fire sprinklers are individually heat activated and only the fire sprinkler closest to fire goes off, keeping the fire small and allowing time for all to escape.
We know that fire sprinklers buy time and time buys life.
Fire and building codes are a minimum and should be adopted to protect lives and property in the future.
(Learn More. Courtesy of the NFSA and YouTube. Posted on Apr 12, 2017.)