Chicago Fires

Two large recent fires in Chicago destroyed two large commercial buildings. The first fire occurred on Dec. 29, 2012, during the daytime in a three-story, 400-by-200-foot, heavy-timber building in the Pilsen section of the city.


The fire was reported by a passing railroad crew in an active furniture company and warehouse. Access was difficult as the property backed right up to an elevated Chicago Transit Authority rail line. There were many fenced-in areas around the property. While hoselines and a snorkel were being set up to hit the main body of fire and to protect the railroad tracks, the volume of fire consumed much of the building. Units on the opposite side of the property had to abandon their positions due to rapid unimpeded fire spread.

The second fire, which took place on the night of Jan. 22, 2013, was spotted by Special Operations Battalion Chief 515, who gave a verbal alarm to the dispatchers and asked for a box-alarm assignment. No 911 calls were received. Chief 515 also requested a 2-11. The fire spread throughout the vacant furniture and lamp company. Master streams, ladder pipes and Snorkels were set up around the large, mill-constructed building. The building measured about 300 feet wide and about 800 feet long. Units were positioned away from the collapse zone. During the fire, the temperatures were in the single digits and the wind chill was at or below zero.

—Harvey Eisner