1. #1
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    Default Chicago High-Rise Fire

    CHICAGO — A blaze inside a high-rise Chicago county administration killed at least six people and trapped many other workers in stairways and hallways that quickly filled with smoke Friday, officials said.

    While six have been confirmed dead, local fire officials say they are still looking for other victims. Fire Superintendent James Joyce said it is not unusual to find more people in the later stages of a fire in a building that can hold as many as 2,500 people during business hours.

    "Searching for all those people, at the same time fighting the fire is more complicated than it looks from the outside," Joyce said.

    Some of the victims inside the 35-story Cook County administration building were not found until after the fire was brought under control. Firefighters were conducting a floor-by-floor search when some of those trapped called 911 on their cellular phones.

    Joyce said a comprehensive search of the building was completed about five hours after the fire was first reported. He said he did not know how the fire got started in the building, which has an alarm system but no sprinklers.

    "The people that have passed away appeared to be for the most part from one area in one stairwell," said Joyce. At least 15 people were hospitalized, including at least two in critical and two in serious condition.

    Flames and dense gray clouds of smoke billowed out of the windows shortly after the fire broke out around 5 p.m. The smoke was so thick that it forced some people inside to retreat from the stairwells.

    He said the injured were found in the stairways and hallways from the 16th to the 22nd floors of the building containing state and county offices. The fire broke out in the 12th floor housing Illinois Secretary of State offices.

    Flames and dense gray clouds of smoke billowed out of the windows shortly after the fire erupted.

    Marienne Branch, who works in the public defender's office on the 17th floor, made her way down a smoky stairwell with colleagues.

    "I was scared for my life. I still am," said Branch.

    Firefighters escorted others down stairways and evacuated a daycare center without incident, fire officials said.



    The rush-hour fire snarled traffic in the city's Loop business district and forced subway commuters to bypass underground tunnels.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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    Why was the building not sprinklered? Does anyone know how much fire extension there was?

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    Jedi, it is my understanding that this building did not have sprinklers because it was constructed prior to them becoming mandatory. I'm not sure of extension. I have been reading several news sites for updates throughout this evening trying to keep up as news is released. Sorry I couldn't be any more help than this.


    My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and for my Brother and Sister firefighters who fought this fire.
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    it is my understanding that this building did not have sprinklers because it was constructed prior to them becoming mandatory.
    This is the problem with grandfathering of structures. In Mass., a sprinkler law was passed that only required buildings built after a certain year to be sprinklered. After a major fire in teh Prudential Center in Boston occurred in teh mid 1980's a new law was finally passed making retrofitting of sprinklers mandatory in all structures over 7,000 square feet and a certain height.

    These freaking building contractors fight sprinkler ordinances tooth and nail and the overall cost of them is really minimal when it comes down to it. The breaks that insurance companies give for a sprinklered building the general contractors and building owners can't see the forest between the trees.

    And the politicians couldn't care less. They are supposed to be doing what is right for the people, but the special interest groups get their attention. Now six people are dead and a lot more are hospitalized. Perhaps there's a chance..........
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    Default

    From the news footage it looked somewhat contained to the floor of origin and what I would guess is a set of office suites.

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    Any new buildings around here over 3 floors has to be sprinklered. So what contractors are doing is building 3 story apartment buildings and building dirt up to the bottom of the 1st floor window. Now it's only a 2 1/2 story building and isn't required to have sprinklers. I think it's disgusting. Risk citizens and firefighters lives to save a few $$.

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    Default Smoke Control System

    Does anyone know if the building had any type of smoke control or stair pressurization system? I suspect it didn't, if they won't put in sprinklers they probably didn't bother with smoke control. This sort of system would have protected the stairwells.

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    I think nearly every article I've read about the fire has mentioned areas of thick smoke in the stairwells... So, I'm guessing the stairs were not pressurized.

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    PFire is correct. No sprinklers. The county bought the building in 1996.Why would they retrofit?.. "It's not required" ..Comes right down to the almighty $$$..Which is going to end up costing more money after all the lawsuits the county is going to have to settle. Not to mention the most important cost, 6 LIVES. Hang on to your hats folks, this story is just starting to develop. I have not spoken to anyone that was there yet, but there are some serious issues concerning this fire. I will post more when I get some REAL info.

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    Mikey,

    Check this out, it was in Christchurch, New Zealand over the weekend. The relevant part is at the end.

    Customers flee fire
    20 October 2003
    By LOIS WATSON and DIANE KEENAN

    Bar and restaurant owners on Christchurch's Strip have lost thousands of dollars for the second time in 12 months after a major fire sent their customers fleeing on Saturday night.

    The fire, which broke out shortly after 10pm, destroyed the historic
    Wentworth building and threatened to engulf the neighbouring NZI building in Hereford Street, which was saved when "drenchers" on its outside wall were activated, spilling water down the side of the building.

    A demolition crew was called in yesterday to pull down the remains of the Wentworth building before it imploded and sent clouds of asbestos into the surrounding area.

    A special asbestos removal team was also deployed by the Christchurch City Council to wash down neighbouring buildings and the public areas along the Oxford Strip and Cashel Mall. Those areas remained cordoned off yesterday for health and safety reasons but traffic was flowing through the central city as normal.

    The council's environmental effects team leader, Klaus Prusas, said it was important that all traces of asbestos were removed because it could cause breathing difficulties.

    Mr Prusas said council staff had inspected all the bars and restaurants in the area to check they were asbestos-free. They had been given the all-clear and would be allowed to re-open today.

    However, the Shades Arcade, which suffered water damage when part of the roof of the Wentworth building fell and punctured a water main, is likely to remain closed for at least another day.

    The Sony shop in Cashel Mall, which was also hit by falling debris from the Wentworth, suffered smoke and water damage.

    Large parts of the inner city were cordoned off for several hours as 14 fire crews battled the blaze at the Wentworth. Flames could be seen as far away as Huntsbury.

    Hundreds of revellers, many midway through their meals, were forced onto the street as emergency services evacuated the bars and restaurants along Oxford Strip as the fire swiftly took hold in the 110-year-old brick building.

    Power was lost to parts of the central city during the height of the blaze, forcing some bars outside the cordoned area also to be cleared.

    Sergeant Jeff Meldau, of the Christchurch police, said the public were
    well-behaved during the emergency and evacuated in an orderly fashion. Two people were arrested for breaching the police cordon.

    Tracy Gough, whose family has owned the old building for more than 50
    years, said it had been heartbreaking watching it burn. His sadness,
    though, was tempered by relief that nobody was hurt and the fire had not spread into neighbouring buildings.

    "It could have been horrific ? it could have gone right through those
    buildings," Mr Gough said. The building, used for car-parking and storage, was insured but for indemnity value only.

    Mr Gough's brother, Antony, who owns all the buildings along the Strip, estimated the bars and restaurants there would have lost "hundreds of thousands" of dollars in revenue because of the fire.

    The bars and restaurants were forced to remain closed yesterday because of the health hazard posed by the asbestos contained in the roof of the burned building.

    The Strip was also evacuated on a Friday night last November when a
    suspicious package at the police station's Durham Street gate prompted
    emergency services to close down all the bars in the area.

    The cause of Saturday's fire has yet to be determined. Chief fire officer David Burford said fire safety experts would try to determine the cause but it would be difficult to assess because of the demolition work.

    Mr Burford said had the NZI building not had drenchers on its outside walls his fire crews would have been battling a high-rise fire.

    "I have no doubt in my mind that saved the building from going up."
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    Lil' update for you all...

    (Chicago-AP) -- Investigators say faulty light fixtures may have sparked Friday's Chicago office building fire that killed six people. A spokesman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says an electrical engineer has been hired to test the fixtures, wires and switches in the 12th-floor storage room where the fire began. Officials haven't determined a cause yet, but say they don't think it was arson. Investigators say workers have said they first spotted flames near the ceiling in their supply room. A Chicago police official says heat from lights could also be to blame if supplies were "stacked up to the very point of the
    light." Eight people are still in the hospital -- some in serious and
    critical condition.

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    For those of us in the boonies, what is a pressurized stairwell?

    From the term itself, it sounds like a higher air pressure in the stairwell. If so, where does the smoke and other byproducts of combustion go? Is the pressure high enough to force it out the windows and negate the chimney effect? How is it pressurized? If electric power is cut, does the pressure go away?
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    In a pressurized ladderwell a fan system creates enough of a pressure differential to push products of combustion out of the ladderwell and back into the building when a door is opened.

    They are very effective adn exist fro the sole purpose of keeping the stairs clear so that victims can excape.

    The only downside to them is that in the Summer when it is warm, the doors get opened so the cooler air can ventilate the floors, thereby negating the effectiveness of the system. If I remember correctly, the systems are usually able to compensate for a loss in pressure equivalent to 2 or 3 doors being open.
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    Risk citizens and firefighters lives to save a few $$.
    Don't blame the contractors. If John Q Public would choose not to live in an unsafe environment, the contractors would put sprinklers in. As long as people are willing to live in places like this, things won't change. We, as FF's, are forced to go to these places to fight fires but the public is not forced to live there. However, just like they choose not to think about FD's until there is a need to cut budgets, they won't think much about where they live until there is a fire.
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    We don't HAVE to go in according to prof Brannigan. He advocates giving owners of unsafe buildings the option to sprinkler, or live with us lobbing water from outside. Too simple, I know, but thought provoking........

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    The problem with sprinklers?

    If you have a fire and sprinklers stop it (most times in the room of origin), then folks think that it wasn't a big fire to begin with. They don't consider its potential spread.

    Of course, that's the same as the fire department. If we burn one down, it was because we didn't do our job. And if we hit one early and keep it contained to room/contents, it was because it wasn't much of a fire.

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    Default Pressurised Stairwell

    Pressurised stairwells are quite effect if the doors are kept closed, it only requires 3 or 4 doors propped open to defeat the system. The normal exiting of the tenants should cause too much smoke migration, since the doors are not open for long, and many office buildings have a double door system on the stairs. One drawback is that it usually is air drawn directly from the outside, so if it is hot and humid outside, the air in the stairs is hot and humid.

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    Post And now this..........!

    CHICAGO (AP) - A fire that killed six people in a downtown
    high-rise has officials debating whether the blaze was handled
    properly by emergency crews
    and whether the government building was
    adequately fireproofed.
    Safety experts said a lack of sprinklers above the ground floor,
    doors to stairwells that automatically locked and hindered fleeing
    workers, and confusion among the workers all contributed to the
    loss of life.
    Despite regular fire drills, survivors of the Friday evening
    blaze in a supply room of the Cook County administration building
    said an evacuation order led to chaos. Had workers stayed where
    they were, they might not have died. There was no agreement who
    issued the order.
    "There were so many things that went wrong here," Cook County
    Public Guardian Patrick Murphy said Monday.
    "It was a very small fire. It was a contained fire," he added.
    "No one should have died."
    While Murphy demanded an independent investigation, city
    officials stressed that they were probing what went wrong and
    intended to provide answers.
    Fire Commissioner James Joyce, who said his department did not
    order the evacuation, maintained that workers would have been safer
    had they stayed in their offices.
    A spokeswoman for 69 West Washington Management - comprising the
    building's two private managers - said the company does not know
    who ordered the evacuation.
    Soon after the fire was discovered on the 12th floor, workers
    were told to leave the 35-story building. But some workers met
    firefighters in the stairwell who ordered them back upstairs -
    where they found that stairwell doors had locked automatically.
    The victims died while searching for an unlocked door from the
    smoky stairwell.
    "I think it's a wake-up call," said Jim O'Neil of Northeast
    Security, who oversees fire safety for about 15 high-rise buildings
    in the Boston area. "What I'm seeing here is general confusion."
    Besides the lack of sprinklers and the stairwell doors that
    automatically locked, safety experts pointed to the lack of
    pressurized stairwells, which are designed to keep smoke from
    entering.
    "Buildings have to have very defined fire evacuation plans,"
    said Howard Safir, former New York City fire commissioner and now
    head of a security consulting firm. "Then they have to have the
    technology that goes along with it, like pressurized stairwells,
    like smart locks that don't lock people in stairwells."
    The building was not required to have sprinklers above the
    ground floor because it was built before the city code required
    them.
    Safir said there has never been a high-rise fire in a New York
    City building with sprinklers that was not put out by them. But, he
    said, proper training of high-rise residents is probably the most
    important factor in saving lives.
    Some people who were inside the building during the fire said
    that despite regular fire drills, there was confusion during the
    evacuation. Murphy also said workers were told during the drills
    that the stairwells would be safe.
    Murphy called for an independent investigation, saying city and
    county officials had already made up their minds that the situation
    had been handled properly.
    "People want answers," Chicago Mayor Richard Daley
    acknowledged.
    Joyce said the fire department's investigation was continuing.
    "There's a lot of questions to be answered. That process is in
    the works now," he said.

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    This is going to get far uglier.

    Every local channel carried this on the 5 O'Clock news. There was the image of the ladder tower, fully extended, barely reaching the 9th floor. "Why don't they reach it all the way up?" the newscaster asked. Then the four-floor sky-shoot of a stream from the basket mounted master stream. How long before the firefighter-hunter attorneys glom on to that one, namely, directing a master stream from an outside window when there are people inside (probably way to big of a building for it to matter, but WHAT IF).

    Then there was Commissioner Joyce, one half hour into the incident, declaring the fire under control, with only three injuries. Ooops.

    And finally, the location of the fire. The Secretary of State's file storage area. Hmmmm. Who in Illinois politics is under the most scrutiny? Who is and has been investigated for the last three-four years? Ah, but I'm sure the fire was accidental....
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    Default pressurizing cost

    I've never heard of a pressurized stairwell before. (I just started at a larger dept, but I've been with a small rural dept. protecting 800 people for 4 years. Plz excuss my ignorance) How much does it cost to pressurize a stairwell the size of this building in Chicago? Also, in my district the tallest building is 13 floors. Anyone have an estimate for the cost to pressurize a 13 floor building? Just curious.
    Last edited by Jedimike007; 10-22-2003 at 09:45 PM.

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    Plz excuss my ignorance
    Not a problem Jedi. We are all here to learn and the day you think you know everything....retire. You will endanger yourself adn everyone else in your immediate area of control.

    As for the cost, couldn't hazard a guess, probably on the order of several thousand dollars, which of course the building owner would fight you on tooth and nail as being extravagant.

    Considering the building is 13 floors, you'll never get anywhere above the 6th or 7th on a good day. I have never fought a high rise fire, but from some of the fellows here, and my education / experience, I can tell you I never want to.
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    I am still awaiting the REAL lowdown...This story is not going away anytime soon around here.

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    Default Architects view & Communication failures focus of fire probe

    As an architect, I am waiting for the real lowdown also. Building codes sometimes take 10 years to 'fix' and they are almost always for new construction only. Some things need to be fixed a lot quicker than that. Tell me what the real problems are, so I can explain them graphically to my clients, and we will push for them, code or no code.

    We need to get the public to push for retrofit laws & codes. This fire is not getting much general press outside of the Chicago area.

    Can the Chicago Firefighters that were there talk on this forum, or is it against the 'rules' or politically incorrect?

    A search of google.com , news , then type in 'cook county administration building fire' reveals a lot of local articles, one of which is below:

    Thanks, Dan

    October 23, 2003
    Communication failures focus of fire probe
    Breakdown likely to blame for undiscovered victims


    By Steve Grzanich


    There is new information about the Cook County Administration Building fire and the City of Chicago's emergency response under review following the deaths of six people.
    Sources tell WBBM Newsradio 780 "communication failures" will likely get the blame as the reason why victims of Friday’s fire went undiscovered for nearly 90 minutes after flames were doused.

    Sources tell WBBM the communication breakdown will likely encompass several aspects of the emergency response, the most significant of which is the radio communication between dispatchers and fire personnel — specifically the relay of information about victims trapped in the building.
    WBBM has been told the communication problems could involve several aspects of the fire department response but will focus on emergency radio transmissions between 911 operators, dispatchers and fire personnel and information that was or was not relayed about victims who were trapped inside the building.

    It's unclear whether the communication breakdown was the result of human involvement, equipment failure or both.

    The "communication failures" could cover more than just 911 transmissions with firefighters. Firefighters who were on the scene say other factors played significant roles in the tragedy that unfolded and that there's plenty of blame to go around, blame that can placed on fire commanders, firefighters and even the managers of the 69 W. Washington St. building.

    Some have been critical of how they were told to fight the fire, why stairwell doors were locked and whether primary searches were adequate. They've openly questioned the experience of some chiefs and commanders and have doubts about their own training in the fighting of high rise fires. One firefighter said mistakes were made by everyone — except the people who died.

    Chicago fire officials say the department is still reviewing the response and no final determinations have been made.

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    MIKEY:
    A photo accompanied the article on this fire in our local newspaper and who do you suppose was standing right next to Chicago Fire Commissioner James Joyce? First Chief Deputy Edmond Enright!
    I took some training with Ed. Strange thing is that he was just a captain at the time.
    Been hearing alot about this one on WGN radio. Latest article says that it took firefighters up to 90 minutes to find some victims.
    Did somebody already turn their clocks back or what? I challenge the accuracy of this claim.
    I don't think a report will come too soon.
    Keep us posted.
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    Chief Reason
    FYI
    Enright is not a 1st Deputy Chief. He is 1st District Chief.

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