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. 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 does not require fire sprinklers in existing apartments under 80 feet in height and 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 in the building. Advocates have been educating and encouraging a change in the law for years, however, all attempts have been opposed by numerous building and real estate stakeholders.
This fire joins other recent fires in underscoring the need for fire sprinklers. A fire last week in San Antonio, Texas claimed the life of one, 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. A fire in Prospect Heights, Illinois in July caused over $10 million dollars in damage to the River Trails condominium complex and placed hundreds of citizens' and firefighters' lives at risk. Not only are lives lost and lives changed forever for those injured, physically and mentally, but it is a loss of housing for the community and a loss of tax base. Fire in an uncontrolled state is devastating to lives, communities, and this country. Adopting the latest national building fire codes and standards will save lives and properties for decades to come, as these tragedies are avoidable.
"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."
The National Fire Sprinkler Association 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 in the 2000 edition of the ICC codes. 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 first-hand 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. A fire can become deadly in less than two minutes (NFPA 2018). Fire is fast. Unfortunately, children and older adults often can't hear a smoke alarm or react fast enough to escape the smoke. Fire sprinklers are individually heat activated and only the fire sprinkler closest to fire 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 should be adopted to protect lives and property in the future.
About the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA): NFSA was founded in 1905 and wants to create a more fire safe world and works to heighten the awareness of the importance of fire sprinkler systems from homes to high-rise and all occupancies in between. The Association is an inclusive organization made up of dedicated and committed members of a progressive life-saving industry. This industry manufactures, designs, supplies, installs, inspects, and services the world's most effective system in saving lives and property from uncontrolled structural fires. For more information about fire sprinklers, how they work and access to additional resources and information, visit www.nfsa.org for the latest material, statistics and a dedicated team of fire safety advocates ready to serve all stakeholders in order to fulfill the vision of a safer world.