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Site of Fatal Fire in 2007, Chicago High-Rise Experiences Yet Another Fire, Seriously Injuring One Resident

On March 24, a 52-year-old man was seriously injured in a fire on the 16th floor of the 42-story residential high-rise building at 2626 North Lakeview Avenue. The high-rise is the site of two previous fires — a fatal fire in January 2007 that killed two residents and a fire in October 2012. The building is not protected with a fire sprinkler system.

“The recurrence of fires in this high-rise building demonstrates the continued shortcomings of Chicago’s very weak life-safety ordinance for residential high-rises,” says Tom Lia, executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.

The Chicago ordinance that Lia refers to requires all residential high-rise buildings built prior to 1975 that do not have fire sprinklers to pass a City of Chicago Life Safety Evaluation (LSE). The deadline to comply was originally January 1, 2012, but has been extended by the City to January 1, 2015. To comply with the LSE, all buildings are required to install one- or two-way communication systems and doors and corridors that are fire-rated for one hour.

The high-rise building at 2626 North Lakeview Avenue, which was built in 1968, has filed and been approved by the City for its LSE, however, it has chosen to forgo installation of lifesaving fire sprinklers.

“The major issue with Chicago’s Life Safety Evaluation system is that it writes off the people in the space where the fire originates by not requiring quick-response residential fire sprinklers, which would work to stop flashover and contain or extinguish the fire. Chicago’s ordinance falls well short of the national model code, NFPA 101, which requires fire sprinklers to protect residents and give them a fighting chance to escape,” adds Lia. “In addition, since the ordinance was adopted over eight years ago, the Life Safety Evaluations are not being enforced with any fines.”

The national model code, NFPA 101: Life Safety Code, is the code referenced by the James Lee Witt Report following the deadly Cook County Administration Building high-rise fire of 2003. It requires fire sprinklers or an engineered fire system in all high-rise buildings in excess of 75 feet and has been adopted by the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal.

“If fire sprinklers had been required in the high-rise at 2626 North Lakeview Avenue in accordance with the State’s adoption of NFPA 101, they would have controlled the fire or put it out on the spot, and residents would not be left worrying about when the next fire will occur,” states Lia. “Fire after fire in this building and other unsprinklered buildings proves that Chicago high-rise residents are not as fire-safe when building owners choose to omit fire sprinklers when complying with the Chicago LSE.”

This latest high-rise fire occurred just two months after a fatal fire in an unsprinklered high-rise building at 6730 South Shore Drive killed two residents and injured one resident and one firefighter.

 

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