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Firefighter Killed In Fall While Battling South Chicago Blaze

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago firefighter died early Monday morning, after falling through an elevator shaft while battling a warehouse fire in the South Chicago neighborhood.

Crews were called to the scene in the 9200 block of South Baltimore Avenue for a fire in a vacant warehouse around 2:40 a.m., according to Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago.

When crews arrived, they discovered heavy smoke on the second floor, and as firefighters were searching for the source of the blaze, they noticed some holes in the floor, and put out an alert for crews to be careful, Santiago said. Firefighter/paramedic Daniel Capuano, 42, fell through an elevator shaft to the basement while searching, according to Santiago.

"It looks like the firefighter had just walked into the elevator shaft as he was searching, couldn't see, and fell," Santiago said.


Crews quickly located Capuano, and put him in an ambulance to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital at 4:25 a.m.

Capuano's colleagues saluted the ambulance carrying his body to the Cook County Morgue, in a procession of scores of emergency vehicles, their lights flashing as they headed east on 95th Street from Christ Medical Center.

Capuano, a 15-year veteran of the department, leaves behind a wife and three children, according to Santiago. Capuano also worked as a firefighter in Evergreen Park.

"We hope you can keep the Capuano family in your prayers, and the department members that work with him," Santiago said. "This is devastating to the family."

The Chicago Department of Buildings said that unauthorized work was being performed at the building, including the removal of the elevator. The department is in the process of a complete inspection.

Pat Farritor, who coaches Capuano's children and has known the family for years, said the loss will be felt by the entire community.

"Outstanding family, and just a tremendous loss," Farritor said."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel also paid his respects to Capuano in a statement Monday morning:

"Chicago has lost one of its bravest in Dan Capuano. As a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department, Dan spent his career putting the safety of others ahead of his own. He made the ultimate sacrifice so Chicago's residents could be safe. For that, there are no words that can truly express our sorrow for his loss nor our gratitude for his service and sacrifice to the City of Chicago. The thoughts and prayers of a grateful city are with Dan, his family, and his fellow firefighters at this difficult time," Emanuel said.

Flags now fly at half-staff, and purple bunting now adorns the fire station where Capuano had been assigned for about a year.

For Tower 34, it's the second death of a firefighter in the last five years.

In 2010, both Corey Ankum, of Tower 34, and Edward Stringer, of Engine Company 63, were killed while fighting a blaze at an abandoned South Shore building.

Fire Department spokesperson Larry Langford confirmed that all that warehouse smoke came from nothing more than a rubbish fire. The building itself was never burning.

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