A high-rise fire in Chicago on Wednesday left at least one dead and several more injured inside a 25-story apartment building.
The fire spread to several floors in the Harper Square Co-Operative building in the city’s South Side, ABC 7 reported. Chicago Fire Department (CFD) spokesperson Larry Langford said officials found one person dead on the building’s 15th floor.
Flames reached up to nine floors as the fire steadily rose higher from one area to the next, footage showed. The fire department said putting out the fire was a difficult, gradual process because the building’s elevators were out of service, forcing personnel to reach the top floors by foot.
“What we encountered here was because the fire went from the 15th all the way to the 14th floor was the fact that the wind was pushing,” CFD Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said. “The fire went up vertically and it lapped from floor to floor to floor, all the way up to 24 where my firefighters gained control of it.”
With elevators out and long lead to standpipes crews could not outrun the vertical spread of this high rise fire 4850 Lakepark. pic.twitter.com/jGNM9SVcnL
— Chicago Fire Media (@CFDMedia) January 25, 2023
Nance-Holt said an individual on the 15th floor witnessed smoke at 10:08 a.m. and called 911, the outlet reported. The flames quickly spread in part due to the strong winds in the city’s winter climate which made the fire spread faster as fire fighters prioritized evacuating all of the people inside, the outlet reported. (RELATED: Investigators Say Deadly House Fire Caused By Lithium-Ion Battery)
Over 300 fire officials immediately arrived and responded to the incident, the outlet reported. The flames have since been put out.
Eight residents, including a 70-year-old woman, were hospitalized due to the fire, Nance-Holt said. A firefighter who suffered a bone injury has also been transported to the hospital. Some who were not assisted by fire personnel in time escaped independently, the outlet reported. Fire officials, however, said the self-evacuation method could have put residents in harm’s way.
“The protocol that we use with the Chicago Fire Department when dealing with a high-rise building, some units would be best for shelter in place and others evacuate,” Langford said. “What we generally do is evacuate the floor above and below the fire, depending upon the size of the building and the footprint of the building. A building like this, if you are some distance away and floors down and above, the fire is not spreading laterally, it is spreading vertically, so you are safe in some of the units.”
The I-Team who inspected the incident said the building failed its last seven inspections conducted by the Department of Buildings (DOB) for not testing its fire alarm and evacuation system, the outlet reported. During a Nov. 7 inspection, the DOB said the building violated safety requirements related to the interior door, exterior masonry and high-rise exterior wall.
The building houses 298 residents in 267 units, according to the outlet. The units reportedly lack sprinklers despite the city requiring all high-rise buildings to have a “life safety evaluation,” the outlet reported.