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article imageChicago high-rise apartment building fire leaves one dead

By Leigh Goessl     Jan 8, 2012 in World
Chicago - An early morning fire in a Chicago, Ill., high-rise building left one woman dead and nine people injured.
The fire, which was reported just after 2 a.m. on Sunday, occurred on the 12th floor of a 21-story apartment building.
The fire claimed the life of a 32-year-old woman, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.
According to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford, the fire victim was found in an open elevator, reported CNN. Langford said the elevator had "superheated air", possibly heating up to 1,000 degrees, "at head level where she was."
The blaze is under investigation. Upon firefighters' arrival the door to the apartment where the fire began was left ajar, presumably so pets could escape, however this allowed the fire and smoke to rapidly spread outside the apartment.
"It was scary. It was really, really scary," resident John Lapiana, who lives on the 15th floor, told CNN affiliate WLS. "We were sleeping and my girlfriend heard sirens out front, so she woke up and our living room was full of smoke."
Firefighters fought the blaze for about two hours before the fire was put out.
According to the Sun-Times report, the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office have identified the fire victim found in the elevator as Shantel McCoy. McCoy had her purse and a bag of carryout food in hand, and officials have surmised that she was just coming home at the time the fire spread.
Deputy District Chief Joseph Roccasalva told the Sun-Times it was possible she "may have been overcome by a backdraft of smoke and flames," once the elevator door opened.
The New York Daily News said the medical examiner determined the cause of death to be carbon monoxide intoxication and smoke inhalation.
One of the injured fire victims is said to be in critical condition.Two of the other injured were firefighters, however their injuries are reported to be minor.
The brick apartment building was built in the 1950s and does not have a central alarm system or any sprinklers as, due to its age, the building was previously not required to have either. However, new requirements have been initiated and building owners have been required to make the updates since Jan. 1, 2012.
Fire Chief Roccasalva said many of the buildings built before 1975 had not yet added the improvements. Reportedly a Buildings Department spokesman said the compliance deadline had been extended for three more years.
Older buildings do not necessarily have strict standards when it comes to safety issues, despite the fact they are compliant with the laws that were in place at the time of construction. The New York Times ran a piece in 2008 that cited older apartments often do not have sprinklers and how one fire chief said this "is an issue."
Fire investigators have determined which apartment the fire began in, however are still examining the cause of the blaze and electrical specialists have been called in. The owner/manager of the building is Planned Property Management Inc.
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