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Owner Of Building Where Firefighters Died Can’t Make Bond, Sent To Jail

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75th Street Fire

Two firefighters were killed and 14 more were injured while fighting a fire at 1744 E. 75th St. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The owner of a South Shore neighborhood building where two Chicago firefighters died battling a blaze is now in jail, after failing to make bond on contempt charges.

Chuck Dai is accused of failing to comply with court orders to repair and secure the property at 1744 E. 75th St., which had once housed the Banner Laundromat and Dry Cleaners. His brother, Richard Dai, is also charged.

The building caught fire on Dec. 22, 2010, and firefighters Edward Stringer, 47, and Corey Ankum, 34, were killed when a crumbling wooden truss roof collapsed on top of them.

On Thursday, bond for Chuck Dai was set at $50,000 by Criminal Court Judge James Obbish. Dai asked for a week to get the money together, but Obbish denied the request and sent him to jail.

The city’s Law Department filed a complaint about the property in Cook County Housing Court in 2007. While the case was pending, there were seven inspections.

The most recent time city inspectors looked at the building, they found 14 code violations and said the Dais had failed to maintain it “in a structurally safe and stable condition.”

Among the violations found were that the roof and roof trusses were rotting, had holes and were leaking. Dai was cited for two code violations for failure “to maintain roof in sound condition and repair.”

Dai also failed to show up for numerous court dates and was fined more than $14,000 for failing to fix the problems, officials said.

In October 2009, Chuck Dai signed a court order and agreed to pay a $1,000 dollar fine, obtain a structural engineer’s report, submit plans and apply for permits, and either make repairs or sell the building by November of this year.

But Alvarez said, “On the date of the fatal fire, Mr. Dai had still failed to make the required repairs and the building was unsecured when the fire was set.”

“We’re also seeking to send an important message to property owners … to remind them that they have legal, as well as civic responsibility to maintain their property in a safe and responsible fashion,” Alvarez added.

Gene Murphy, the building owner’s attorney, said prosecutors cannot prove their case.

“The government, with all their good intentions, does not have any evidence that … would lead any reasonable person to believe that my client willfully violated any court order at any time,” Murphy said.

It was believed that squatters had moved into the building and set fire to wood or garbage, causing the blaze that killed Stringer and Ankum.

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