Three high-rises where major fires broke out were cited for fire pump problems
CHICAGO (CBS) -- Hundreds of people living in a South Shore high-rise still don't know when they can get back into their homes after a fire on Thursday.
Fire investigators as of Friday still had not determined a cause for the fire at the Lakefront Place Condo building, at 6730 S. South Shore Dr.
But as CBS 2's Sabrina Franza reported, we do know the building had failed a fire inspection a mere three days before the fire broke out. The issues at the building were not unlike those that impacted crews at other high-rise fires in Chicago this year.
A day after the fire, the Lakefront Place Condominium building remained boarded up. The building was totally off limits – and a sign read "do not enter."
Around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, a 2-11 alarm fire broke out on the 10th floor of the 17-story high-rise.
The fire was one of three high-rise fires CBS 2 has been tracking closely.
On Wednesday, Jan. 25, a massive blaze broke out in the south tower of the Harper Square Cooperative, at 4850 S. Lake Park Ave. in the Kenwood neighborhood. The fire broke out in a unit on the 15th floor and climbed the exterior of the building all the way to the 20th.
One woman – a schoolteacher in her 80s – was killed in the Harper Square Cooperative fire. Nine others were injured.
On Wednesday, April 5, a fire broke out in the high-rise condo building at 1212 N. Lake Shore Dr. in the Gold Coast. Chicago Fire Lt. Jan Tchoryk died of natural causes while trekking up flights of stairs to fight the fire.
CBS 2's Franza dug into city records and found violations cited for each of the three high-rises where fires broke out. She uncovered surprising similarities.
They violations in each building included fire pump violations – problems that make it harder for firefighters to access water on higher floors.
"Lots of fire pump rooms in the city of Chicago with equipment that is 50 to 100 years old or even more," said Eric Williams, Illinois Fire Protection Division manager for Peerless Midwest.
In all three cases, the buildings were also all old enough that the city did not require sprinkler systems. Sprinkler systems are only required in high-rise buildings built after 1975. The South Shore building was built in 1962, and the Gold Coast and Kenwood buildings were both completed in 1969, according to real estate reports.
The lack of sprinklers makes pumps that much more vital.
"The City Chicago, the Water Department – provides excellent water supply, but it's at very low pressure - 30 or 40 psi - and that is not enough pressure to get the water to the upper floors," said Williams, "and so, that is the purpose of a fire pump."
In the Kenwood building, an order was issued to fix a defective fire pump in February – after the fire. The Gold Coast building was cited for an outdated fire pump inspection.
And just this past Monday, three days before the fire there, the South Shore building was cited for a defective fire pump.
"If you cannot provide water to an individual room, then you have to get it there somehow - whether it's hardworking firemen carrying hoses up 27 stories, or projecting water from ground level and doing the best they can and that point," Williams said.
Pumps are required in any building over 80 feet tall in Chicago. They are supposed to be tested annually.
"Could be considered a reasonably expensive annual inspection, and sometimes those monies are simply not made available," Williams said.
Back in South Shore, it is not clear when the issue will be fixed.
"And if it is not capable, then frankly, it will not have the water that's necessary to put out the fire," Williams said.
We did reach out to the condo association at Lakefront Place, as well as the management company via phone via email. Yet again Friday, there was no response.
The cause of the fire at the South Shore building remained under investigation late Friday. No one was physically hurt.
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