Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
Allegion
Email: lori_greene@allegion.com, Blog: www.idighardware.com or www.ihatehardware.com


Jan 09 2012

Apartment Fire – North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago

Category: Fire DoorsLori @ 10:59 pm Comments (4)
Share

UPDATE:  More articles added at the bottom of the post.

The other night, one of my friends (you know who you are) was talking about how I post “stories about people dying because they didn’t have the right kind of hardware.”  Well, that’s sometimes true and if he got the message maybe someone else will too.  I’m not being morbid…I just want to help educate people about the dangers of improper egress and fire doors.

Over the weekend I read the account of a high-rise apartment fire in Chicago, which killed 32-year-old Shantel McCoy and injured 9 others.  As more details of this fire are revealed, it further illustrates the need for education on how fire doors protect us.  This likely began as a small fire – authorities are saying that a candle or an electrical problem was likely the cause.  The residents of the 12th-floor unit escaped safely, but were not able to get their cat out of the apartment.  They blocked the door open with a rug to give the cat a chance to escape.

The open door allowed the smoke, flames, and hot gases to fill the 12th-floor hallway.  Some residents were trapped in their apartments, waiting for up to an hour to be rescued.  At the same time that the emergency signal was received by the fire department, 32-year-old Shantel McCoy rode the elevator to her apartment on the 12th floor – the same floor where the fire began.  When the doors opened, Shantel was exposed to temperatures up to 1500 degrees, resulting in her immediate death.

The media is focusing on the fact that the building has no sprinkler system since it was built before 1975, and the elevator was not equipped with a sensor that would have prevented the doors from opening on the fire floor.  With either of these systems in place, Shantel would likely be alive.  But what about the apartment door??  How about educating John Q. Public about the benefit of closing the door on a fire?

Officials: Door propped open for cat spread fire that killed woman – Chicage Sun-Times
The door to a burning lakefront apartment where a 32-year-old neighbor died had been left propped open by a fleeing couple because their cat refused to leave, fire investigators said on Monday.  The couple’s decision to use a rug to prop open the door apparently doomed Shantel McCoy…Had the door been closed, the fire would almost certainly have been contained to the unit where the fire originated until responding firefighters had a chance to arrive on the scene and make it up to the 12th floor, according to Deputy District Fire Chief Joseph Roccasalva.

Officials: Door had been propped open so pets could escape fatal fire – Chicago Tribune
A Lakeview couple who escaped from their burning apartment on Sunday left their front door open so that their pets could escape the flames, contributing to the spread of the deadly fire, fire officials said today.  “They told the fire investigators that they propped the door open so animals could get out,” said Larry Langford, a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department. “I can tell you that the door being left open contributed to the spread of the fire.”

Shantel McCoy Killed In Lakeview High-Rise Fire: Unknowingly Took Elevator To Her Death – Huffington Post
“If the fire is in your apartment, we tell people to get out and close the door. Each unit is a compartment to itself,” Chicago Fire Department Chief Joe Roccasalva told NBC. “… The door to the apartment where the fire started was not closed, and the super-heated toxic gasses all got into the hallway there. The heat in there is probably 1,500 to 2,000 degrees at the ceiling. And if she was standing in the elevator, she probably got it full, right on.”  If the door had been closed, McCoy likely would have survived.

Woman dies in high-rise apartment fire – WGNtv.com
“It was full of billowing black smoke. And the heat and the smoke was too unbearable to go in the hallway, so we closed the door and put a wet towel under the door.. (firefighters) eventually knocked down the door and escorted us out and the hallway was charred and black and full of water,” said building resident Brett Lee.

Woman rode elevator to death in Chicago high-rise fire – CBS News
“The door of the apartment that was on fire didn’t close when they left and all the heat and gases and smoke poured into the hallway. When the elevator door opened up, she just got blasted,” Roccasalva said.

————————————————

Additional Articles:

Fire Death Partially Blamed on Open Door, Lack of Sprinkler and Safety Systems – Fox Chicago News
The building across the street has been upgraded, and residents there say they’ve been instructed to keep their doors closed in a fire. “We’ve also been told — we’ve had seminars with the fire department — to never to leave a door open. They’re fire doors,” neighbor Pat Gabelick said. “But I’m sure these people didn’t have the info that we had.”

Did open door for cat lead to death in high-rise fire? – WLS 890 AM
Fire investigators say the couple in the 12th floor apartment at 3130 North Lake Shore Drive were able to crawl through the smoke with their dog out of their apartment.  But they told investigators that when their cat wouldn’t leave, they propped the automatically-closing door open with a rug.  That opening is what let the smoke and superheated air into the hallway. 

Woman Unknowingly Takes Elevator to a Fiery Death – The Root
Unfortunately for McCoy, they left their front door open, and when the elevator door opened, she was hit directly with the fire. If the door had been closed, McCoy would have survived.  “If the fire is in your apartment, we tell people to get out and close the door. Each unit is a compartment to itself,” Chicago Fire Department Chief Joe Roccasalva told NBC. “The door to the apartment where the fire started was not closed, and the superheated toxic gases all got into the hallway there. The heat in there is probably 1,500 to 2,000 degrees at the ceiling. And if she was standing in the elevator, she probably got it full, right on.”

4 Responses to “Apartment Fire – North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago”

  1. Brad Keyes says:

    Codes cannot legislate against ignorance.

    Why can’t municipalities require life saving devices such as elevator recall in existing buildings? The LSC does require elevator recall in existing apartment buildings. Why doesn’t the City of Chicago enforce the LSC at these apartment buildings? Why does the city require occupant education on the proper use of basic fire safety features?

  2. John O'Neil says:

    You’re right that the general public, and a lot of building maintenance personnel, simply don’t appreciate the necessity for functioning fire doors. Whenever I see a fire door wedged open, I take it upon myself to remove the wedge and see to it that the door is latched.

  3. Mark says:

    Sounds like involuntary manslaughter to me.

  4. David R. DeFilippo says:

    I will repeat this again – Until the day Insurace Companies will no longer insure buildings that don’t come up to minimum standards the bodies will just pile up, up , up –

Leave a Reply



This website or its third party tools use cookies, which are necessary to its functioning and required to achieve the purposes illustrated in the cookie policy. If you want to know more or withdraw your consent to all or some of the cookies, please refer to the cookie policy. By closing this banner, scrolling this page, clicking a link or continuing to browse otherwise, you agree to the use of cookies.

This website or its third party tools use cookies, which are necessary to its functioning and required to achieve the purposes illustrated in the cookie policy. If you want to know more or withdraw your consent to all or some of the cookies, please refer to the cookie policy. By closing this banner, scrolling this page, clicking a link or continuing to browse otherwise, you agree to the use of cookies.