Northwest Side Apartment Fire Fatality Provides Glaring Evidence of Deficiency in Chicago’s Multifamily Building Codes

On Sunday, November 9, a fire killed a 10-year-old boy and injured 11 other individuals as it ripped through a four-story apartment building at 5727 North Kimball Avenue in the northwest side neighborhood of Hollywood Park in Chicago. Although smoke alarms alerted residents, no fire sprinklers were present in the building to allow safe routes of escape, forcing some residents to jump from their units.

Depending on occupant load, buildings up to 79 feet tall can be erected in Chicago without fire sprinkler protection. New high-rises 80 feet and higher must be protected with fire sprinklers.

“It’s time to bring Chicago’s fire and building codes into the 21st Century,” states Tom Lia, fire safety advocate and executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB). “Under the city’s current code, if the same building where the fire occurred were built today, it would not be required to be protected with fire sprinklers. That’s unthinkable”

“Had fire sprinklers been present in this fire, they likely would have prevented the injuries and death, providing safe routes of escape so no residents would have had to jump from their units.”

Over 105 neighboring communities to Chicago have adopted national model codes that protect multifamily buildings, yet Chicago has no such requirements.

“It is clear that Chicago’s suburban communities have embraced a higher level of fire safety in multifamily buildings that is recommended by national codes,” notes Lia. “We hope that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city council will take a closer look at adopting the current model codes that include fire sprinkler protection in multifamily occupancies to protect the future of Chicago.”

“Our prayers go out to the young victim, his family, and all others who were injured in the fire,” he adds.


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