On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of tourists and onlookers on Michigan Avenue looked up in awe to the 50th floor of the iconic John Hancock Center, where flames could be seen shooting from the building’s east side. The scene was terrifying and traffic had to be stopped for the more than 100 firefighters and six ambulances that arrived at the scene. Miraculously, no fatalities were reported and five people–including one Chicago police officer–were able to escape with just minor injuries. The owner of the 50th floor residence remained unharmed, however her entire unit was completely gutted by the blaze. Investigators say
This fire has many residents and fire officials questioning the building’s fire safety standards. While the building is equipped with smoke detectors, there were no sprinklers in the unit. Chicago’s fire ordinance does not require owners to install fire sprinklers in high-rises built before 1975. As we know, sprinklers could knock down fires before firefighters even arrive on scene.
Tom Lia, the executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board, further explained, “This fire is the perfect example of the flaws in Chicago’s Life Safety Evaluation System which was engineered to allow as many buildings to pass the evaluation without requiring fire sprinklers.”