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Two Dead In High-Rise Fire On South Side

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UPDATED: 1/22/2013 – 9:12 p.m.

Firefighters responded to a high rise fire on the South Side. (Credit: Chicago Fire Department)

Firefighters responded to a high rise fire on the South Side. (Credit: Chicago Fire Department)

CHICAGO (CBS) — Two people were killed, and one other resident and one firefighter were injured in a high-rise fire on the South Side on Tuesday.

The 16-floor building is located at 6730 South Shore Dr. Three residents were transported to local hospitals in “red/critical” condition, according to the Chicago Fire Department. Two of those people died; both of those victims had been found on the 7th floor, according to the Fire Department.

Jameel Johnson was pronounced dead at the University of Chicago Medical Center. John Fasula was pronounced dead at Jackson Park Hospital. They were both privately hired contractors working in the building.

A woman who was found injured in the building’s lobby was in critical condition at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The woman was in full cardiac arrest when she was found.

The injured firefighter was sent to a local hospital in good condition.

Details on the injuries were not immediately available.

Although the two dead victims have not yet been identified, building manager Michael Rutkowski said it is believed they were working in the building.

“We don’t have any confirmation of who, actually, the victims were. It is believed they were contractors, and not residents of the building,” he said.

Fire Department officials said both men were found right outside the condo where the fire started, and they were not burned.

It was unclear if they were working near that condo, or if they just ran over and tried to help the resident, perhaps even saving her life.

A truck with a Dish Network emblem belongs to one of the victims. Police moved it away from the scene Tuesday night as fire investigators continued their work at the building.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation late Tuesday, pending an engineer’s report, but Fire Department officials said it might have been an electrical fire. It started in a 7th floor bedroom.

Photos provided by the Fire Department showed the fire appeared to be isolated to one or two units in the building on the 7th floor. The fire was struck out around 9:25 a.m. Damage was extensive along one side of the building.

Thick, black smoke was pouring from the windows. While the fire was contained to the 7th floor, it did damage residences above the fire. Quick work by firefighters prevented the blaze from spreading to the eighth floor.

Deputy Fire Cmsr. John McNicholas said a total of 190 firefighters were called to the blaze. Many of them were deployed to the floors above the fire to provide information to residents. The building was not equipped with a PA system.

Several residents were seen standing on their balconies during the fire.

Firefighters were battling the blaze from the interior as well has outside using a tower ladder.

The blaze was upgraded to a 3-11 alarm at 9:11 a.m. and EMS Plan 2, which sends at least 10 ambulances to the scene, Fire Media Affairs said.

Some residents, like Jay Fizer, evacuated the building by the stairs. Fiser was left shaken by the experience.

“A big cloud of smoke just smacked us,” he said. “A big old wind of smoke just came out of nowhere, you know? Then just couldn’t see anything.”

The fire broke out three floors below Fizer’s condo. Others higher up were told by firefighters to stay put, including Wendy Smith’s sister.

“It’s below zero out here, and she’s stranded. It’s a scary situation,” she said.

According to city records, the building failed two inspections in 2012 for defective sprinkler heads. It eventually passed inspection in November after fixing the problem, according to city inspection reports.

One source with some knowledge of the investigation said the elevators’ fire recall system had been tested last month and was working properly. The system was also working Tuesday, until smoke got into the circuitry of one elevator during the fire, and kept its doors open on the first floor.

A tower ladder is used to battle a fire on the South Side. (Credit: Chicago Fire Department)

A tower ladder is used to battle a fire on the South Side. (Credit: Chicago Fire Department)

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