Chicago Apartment Fire Kills Eight, NFSA Responses
CHICAGO, Aug. 26, 2018 (PRNewswire)
A fire in a three-story apartment building in Chicago has resulted in eight deaths. Six children and two adults were killed after the fire broke out at 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 26th. Additionally, a teenager and young adult were taken to the hospital and are listed in critical condition. A firefighter was also injured while fighting the blaze. The building did not have a fire sprinkler system, and firefighters were unable to find working smoke detectors in the building. This is Chicago’s largest fire fatality loss since the Cook County Administration Building high-rise fire that killed six people in 2004.
Chicago Building Code has remained mostly unchanged for over 70 years
As of 2018, Chicago Building Code does not require fire sprinklers in existing apartments under 80 feet in height. When new apartments are constructed, fire sprinklers are not required until wood construction exceeds 30 feet in height.
There have been three attempts to adopt the International Code Council (ICC) codes, which require all new apartments to have fire sprinklers, and existing apartment buildings under 80 feet to have fire sprinklers when renovations occur. Advocates have been educating about and encouraging a change in the law for years. However, all attempts have been opposed by numerous building and real estate stakeholders.
Update: As of 2019, Chicago City Council passed Phase 2 of the Building Code Modernization Ordinance, which requires new fire protection standards. Read more here.
Deadly fires emphasis the need for fire sprinkler systems
This fire joins other recent blazes in underscoring the need for fire sprinklers. Fire sprinklers are proven to significantly reduce loss of life and property during a fire.
A fire last week in San Antonio, Texas, claimed one life, while a fire three weeks ago in San Marcos, Texas, claimed the lives of five college students. Apartment and condo buildings present unique challenges for life safety. And as facts are examined, the realization that built-in fire protection is needed becomes apparent.
In July, a fire in Prospect Heights, Illinois, caused over $10 million in damage to the River Trails condominium complex and placed hundreds of citizens’ and firefighters’ lives at risk. Not only are lives often lost in fires—or changed forever for those injured, physically and mentally—but these events represent a loss of housing and a tax base for the community. Fire in an uncontrolled state is devastating to people, communities, and this country. Adopting the latest national building fire codes and standards will save lives and properties for decades to come—because these tragedies are avoidable.
NFSA continues to advocate for fire sprinklers in apartments and condos
“It’s time for community leaders to realize there are steps they can take to ensure citizens and firefighters are safe,” explains NFSA President Shane Ray. “Fire sprinklers are needed in apartment buildings. Progressive cities and states have required this for years; some, such as Maryland, for decades. Too many lives are being lost. We need to respond with proactive steps to make these buildings safer.”
NFSA is firm in the belief that fire sprinklers would have changed the outcome of these fires. The deaths of these unfortunate victims were needless and preventable. 2018 has been a year when, over and over again, our Association has had to respond to fatal apartment building fires across the country. Astonishingly, sprinklers were required in apartment buildings more than two stories in height and with more than 16 dwelling units as early as the 2000 edition of the ICC codes. But eighteen years later, unnecessary deaths are still occurring in apartment building fires across the U.S.
NFSA’s Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board has also responded to this fire, with firsthand information about Chicago issues.
“Smoke alarms warn you when you have a fire, and fire sprinklers stop a fire from becoming deadly,” said Tom Lia, Executive Director, Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB). “Fire sprinklers were not required when this apartment building was built, and sadly, Chicago codes do not require fire sprinklers if this same building were built today.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fires are more deadly today due to modern furnishings. Fire is fast, and one can become deadly in less than two minutes (NFPA 2018). Unfortunately, children and older adults often can’t hear a smoke alarm or react fast enough to escape the smoke. Fire sprinklers are the solution. They are individually heat-activated, and only the sprinkler closest to blaze goes off, keeping the fire small and allowing time for all to escape.
We know that fire sprinklers buy time, and time buys life. Fire and building codes are a minimum, and they should be adopted to protect lives and property in the future.
Submitting a Sprinkler Save story is quick and easy—and it may help make a difference
We invite our members to join us in the fight for fire sprinklers. We collect and publish “Sprinkler Save” stories that illustrate how sprinklers protect lives and property, preventing tragedies like this Chicago fire. To share a Sprinkler Save with NFSA, fill out this form:
For over a century, the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) has served as the voice of the fire sprinkler industry. Our mission: advocating to protect lives and property through the widespread acceptance of the fire sprinkler concept. To join NFSA or learn more about the ways membership can benefit your organization, visit nfsa.org/join.