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Fact Sheet: High-Rise Fire at Chicago Housing Authority Apartments on Nov. 21, 2012

  • On the morning of November 21, 2012, an extra-alarm fire occurred on the ninth floor of Patrick Sullivan Apartments, a Chicago Housing Authority high-rise building for senior citizens on the Near West Side at 1633 West Madison Street. Fire officials believe the fire began in bedding.  At least five people were injured in the fire with one in serious to critical condition, three in serious to fair condition and the other in fair to good condition.
  • The building was built prior to the City of Chicago’s requirements for fire sprinklers in high-rise buildings in 1975. Fire sprinklers, which are not present in the building, could have prevented these fire injuries. The fire sprinkler closest to the fire in the apartment unit where the fire originated would have activated and put water on the fire while it was still small, allowing residents time to safely escape. Fire sprinklers prevent fire and toxic smoke and gases from spreading, all of which can be fatal.
  • According to City of Chicago records, the Patrick Sullivan Apartments high-rise building, which is owned by the Chicago Housing Authority, has not passed the City’s Life Safety Evaluations (LSE) and has failed to resubmit its plans. The City’s LSE, which had an original deadline to comply by January 1, 2012, but was extended until January 1, 2015, requires fire safety updates for pre-1975 high-rise buildings. To comply with the City’s LSE, all buildings are required to have one- or two-way communication systems and doors/corridors that are fire-rated for one hour. But to fully comply, additional measures may need to be taken. Installing fire sprinklers, however, can bypass those additional measures entirely.
  • According to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association’s “Fire Protection Research Foundation,” older adults, such as those that live in Patrick Sullivan Apartments, are a high-risk population when it comes to fire deaths and injuries due to mobility and other issues. People age 65 and older have a fire death rate more than twice that of the national average.

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