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Repeat of Fire Tragedy in Chicago High-Rise Should Have Been Prevented
Date:12/10/2009

ORLAND PARK, Ill., Dec. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Early this morning, a fatal fire at the 44-story building at 260 East Chestnut Street in Chicago claimed the life of one individual, injuring at least 12, including five of the hundreds of firefighters present.

The tragic event needlessly repeats a January 2002 fire in the same building that also claimed one individual's life and injured 11, including eight firefighter injuries. This recurrence should not have happened and surely calls into question the effectiveness of the "minimum requirements" of the City of Chicago's Life Safety Evaluation (LSE). Had fire sprinklers been installed, residents would have had the additional time needed to safely escape the building and the fire would not have grown to flashover -- the temperature at which everything in the room combusts.

According to Tom Lia, executive director for the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, "The current Chicago Life Safety Evaluation program falls well short of the national standard of safety, NFPA 101: Life Safety Code," which is the code referenced by the James Lee Witt Report following the deadly Cook County Administration Building high-rise fire of 2003. NFPA 101 requires fire sprinklers in all high-rise buildings in excess of 75 feet and has been adopted by the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal.

The compromise LSE program for Chicago does not address the high-rise building as a whole and fails to appreciate the different characteristics of a high-rise building (i.e. means of egress protection, vertical penetrations, smoke control, compartmentation, etc.) and the importance of proper maintenance. In short, Chicago's LSE program lacks a life safety package approach that is considered standard and widely accepted throughout the rest of the nation. Lia notes that Chicago's LSE is essentially a "watered down" version of NFPA 101 and does not address all of the key issues in hi
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