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Cause of Kenwood High-Rise Fire Revealed, Chicago Fire Department Says

NBC Chicago 1/26/2023
© Provided by NBC Chicago

Officials on Thursday revealed what they believe was behind a deadly multi-floor fire at a high-rise condo building in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood.

"The Office of Fire Investigation has concluded the cause of the extra alarm fire on Lakepark is careless use of smoking materials that ignited combustibles in a bedroom," the department tweeted. "The fire is accidental. A smoke detector in the residence was not working at the time of the fire."

At least one person was killed and eight other people were injured as the blaze quickly spread to multiple floors in the nearly 300-unit building at 4850 South Lake Park Ave., according to officials.

Fire officials said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon that the fire spread vertically up to the 24th floor of the high-rise, and required the work of 300 firefighters and over 80 pieces of equipment.

The firefighters' efforts were complicated by the loss of elevator service and a long lead to standpipes.

Officials said the 25-story building has a total of 298 units, with 267 of the units occupied at the time of the fire.

While fire officials confirmed that eight people were transported to area hospitals with injuries, their conditions weren't immediately known. Officials were also unable to confirm if the person who was killed in the fire was a resident.

One firefighter was taken to a local hospital in fair condition with an orthopedic injury, while 33 civilians on scene refused further medical treatment, authorities said.

According to building inspection documents obtained by NBC 5, Chicago building inspectors have cited the building at least 12 times for “alleged code violations” over the past 12 months.

At least eight of those alleged violations were related to fire safety, including what inspectors described as a "defective fire pump," missing fire tags on doors and more, the documents revealed.

Four times within the past year – including just last month – city inspectors have said the building must “provide for an annual fire alarm/voice communication system test.” 

Dating back to October of 2021, building inspectors had, as a result of violations discovered, asked building owners to perform annual, required inspections of any existing sprinkler system and standpipes.

Building inspectors also directed building owners to repair or replace the “6-inch water supply” to the fire pump “at once."

According to the Midwest Housing Association of Housing Cooperatives, the 25-story apartment building was built in 1970, and contains 306 units.

NBC 5 has not been able to confirm if the entire building is equipped with a sprinkler system, or where in the building sprinkler valves are located.

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