A fire Wednesday morning at the Harper Square Cooperative residential building, 4850 S. Lake Park Ave., has killed one person and injured at least nine others, Chicago Fire Department officials said.
Shortly after 10 a.m. on Jan. 25, a fire broke out on the 15th floor of the Kenwood high-rise’s western side, according to fire department Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt at a press conference on the scene.
Throughout the morning the fire spread up to the 24th floor due to the snowy day’s blustery winds, which blew the fire outwards, creating a plume of flames.
There is at least one fatality on the 15th floor in the unit where the fire is believed to have originated.
The fire department is investigating the source of the fire.
The residential makeup of the 25-story building, which is a housing cooperative, is primarily older adults.
“There will be a lot of displaced people,” said Ald. Sophia King (4th). “This is a building that has a lot of elderly people, a lot of seniors in it.”
She said the owners of the CSO Multiplex sports facility at 1301 E 47th St. were also providing temporary shelter and warm food for any displaced residents into the late afternoon.
The fire was under control by 3 p.m., according to Nance-Holt.
To battle the flames, firefighters had to utilize the building’s staircase, as the elevator was out. They used the building’s standpipes for water.
“Companies arrived on the scene, and then they aggressively attacked the fire,” said Nance-Holt. “They grabbed the communications systems, notifying all the residents of the building of what was going on, which is really important in a high-rise fire.”
As the fire was burning, King said that first responders told her that those who were still inside the building were not in harm’s way and that it was best for them to remain where they were. “Once they contain the fire, then they will evacuate them safely as well,” she said.
Harper Square Cooperative was built in 1970 and includes hundreds of one- to three-bedroom units. Its board president, Arthur Slater, could not be reached for comment.
Workers at the local office of the Realty & Mortgage Co., which manages the property, declined to comment. The management’s corporate office, 1509 W. Berwyn Ave., did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Patrice Castillo was working from home in her eighth-floor unit when the fire started.
“I heard a few fire trucks coming up, and then when I looked outside the window, I saw a few people staring up at the building,” she said. “I let my job know I was going to go see what was going on, came downstairs and saw the fire just blazing on the 15th floor.
From that point, it started going slowly up, and I could see people with their windows open trying to look down on it. The people who I saw who were right above it were on the 19th floor. I don’t know what happened to them. And then the flames went up to that unit.”
She had not been able to get inside her unit to see if there was any damage.
“My aunt is on the 25th floor; she said that she was not able to get out of the building, because there was too much smoke in the hallway. And there’s only one staircase on this side to get down. You can’t get to the other side of the building,” Castillo said. “We haven’t been able to get in contact with her for the last hour and a half, but the last time my mom spoke to her, she said that she was in a unit with a couple, and that’s all we know.”
The story is developing.