2 dead, 1 hurt in extra-alarm fire at South Side high-rise

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire on the seventh and eighth floors of a high-rise apartment building at 6730 South Shore Drive in Chicago on January, 22,2013.

Two men died and a woman was seriously injured when an extra-alarm fire broke out in a high-rise on South Shore Drive this morning.

All three victims suffered full cardiac arrest, apparently from breathing in smoke, according to Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

One of the men was in his 30s and the other was in his 40s, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. The first man was pronounced dead at 9:54 a.m. at the University of Chicago Medical Center and the other was pronounced later at Jackson Park Hospital,  officials said.

Their names were not being released pending notification of family, according to the medical examiner's office.

The men were found on the seventh floor and the woman was found in the lobby of the building in the 6700 block of South Shore Drive, also in full cardiac arrest, Langford said. Paramedics were able to revive her with CPR and took her to the University of Chicago Medical Center, Langford said.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries, officials said.

The fire broke out around 8:40 a.m. and was quickly raised to a 3-11 alarm with a call for at least 10 ambulances, officials said. Firefighters on a ladder battled the blaze on the seventh floor while firefighters on another ladder tried to reach residents on balconies on the other side of the building.

Langford said the fire may have started in the bedroom of an apartment on the 7th floor. The blaze spread to an apartment on the 8th floor, he said. The fire was under control by 9:25 a.m.

Edward Parks, 48, said he was sleeping in his 11th floor apartment when the fire alarm went off. Parks said he grabbed the warmest clothes he could find and joined other residents in the hall.

"It was real cloudy in the halls when I went out to see what was happening," Parks said, his mustache covered in icicles. "There was a fireman in the hall. It was an orderly exit."

Parks, who has lived in the building for five years, said he had been standing outside for more than an hour in the freezing weather.

Jevon Smith, 30, lives on the 5th floor and said he was at a neighbor's apartment when he saw the fire from a window.  "There were huge flames coming from three apartments," Smith said. "I'm glad I wasn't home - just hope no one was hurt."

"This cold is brutal," Smith said, rubbing his hands together.

Jay Fizer, 20 was sleeping in his 10th floor apartment when smoke alarms started going off.  "Next thing I know, I open the door and hear a little panic and whatever. . .We just grabbed our stuff and got out of there."

Fizer said a "big old wind of smoke just came out of nowhere" as soon as he and a few other residents got about halfway down the stairs. But they made it to the first floor exit.

"We did it on our own," Fizer said. "No help. Just God."

This is "the worst time for this to happen," he said, standing outside the building in nearly subzero temperatures.

The fire department did not order an evacuation of the building, telling residents it was safer to stay in their apartments, Langford said. Firefighters then went door to door, checking on them.

Water from hoses and hydrants had turned to sheets of ice around the building. Dozens of fire trucks, ambulances and police cars lined South Shore Drive.

An American Red Cross team was on the scene to help find shelter for families displaced by the fire, spokeswoman Patricia Kemp said.

Kemp said the crisis team would likely be meeting the injured residents and their families at the hospital. "We'll also be replacing some items lost in the fire," Kemp said.

Chicago Tribune reporter Carlos Sadovi also contributed.


Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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