This Day in LODD, Structure Fire HistoryCollapse Six Minutes After Under Control, Chicago 2010

Collapse kills two, injures 19 after two line fire goes under control.


On this day in 2010 two Chicago firefighters were killed and 19 others injured after a collapse occurred minutes after a rubbish fire in an abandoned building had been declared under control. The investigation afterwards reinforced identification of abandoned buildings and accountability in the midst of shift change.

Approximate location of the fire fighters inside structure and in alley at time of the roof collapse. Five fire fighters were also on the roof at the time of the collapse. (NIOSH diagram)

From the NIOSH Report:

 After positioning the truck in the street in front of the structure, the entire T-16 crew followed the E-72 hose line through the front door (Sector 1) and proceeded to the rear. They walked through the courtyard at Sector 4 to size up the structure and observed an open stairwell leading to an underground basement. The crew stopped to remove a door from a side entrance and placed the door over the hole to prevent anyone from stepping into the open stairwell. The T-16 crew proceeded into the structure and observed a small amount of rubbish burning on the ground. They walked up to the E-72 crew to see if they needed any help with the hand line. One of the T-16 fire fighters stirred the rubbish fire with a pike pole while the other T-16 fire fighters, including Victim # 1, went to remove windows in the Sector 4 wall. Metal mesh security screens prevented the removal of the windows. Victim # 1 remained in this area while the other fire fighters walked back toward the rear of the structure. The T-16 lieutenant briefly talked with the E-72 lieutenant and observed the E-72 crew hitting small spot fires with their hand line.


The T-16 driver began to pull the ceiling above the area enclosed by the wooden wall studs. The ceiling appeared to be about ¾-inch plywood and as he pulled the ceiling small pieces of burning debris began to fall down around him. As he continued to pull the ceiling, he heard a loud cracking sound and then was knocked to his knees by the collapsing roof. The T-16 lieutenant was standing about 8 – 10 feet inside the overhead door with a T-16 fire fighter just to his left when the roof collapsed. The collapse pushed the lieutenant and fire fighter out into the alley where they were buried by the debris from the brick wall. The other T-16 fire fighter was walking toward the rear of the structure when the roof collapsed. The fire fighter was knocked momentarily unconscious by the collapse, then came-to and found that he was unable to free himself. He had a radio but did not think to radio a Mayday. He heard rescue crews digging through the debris so he waited to be rescued.

Contributing Factors:

 Lack of a vacant / hazardous building marking program within the city

 Vacant / hazardous building information not part of automatic dispatch system

 Dilapidated condition of the structure

 Dispatch occurred during shift change resulting in fragmented crews

 Weather conditions including snow accumulation on roof and frozen water hydrants

 Not all fire fighters equipped with radios.

Key Recommendations:

 Identify and mark buildings that present hazards to fire fighters and the public

 Use risk management principles at all structure fires and especially abandoned or vacant unsecured structures

 Train fire fighters to communicate interior conditions to the Incident Commander as soon as possible and to provide regular updates

 Provide battalion chiefs with a staff assistant or chief's aide to help manage information and communication

 Provide all fire fighters with radios and train them on their proper use

 Develop, train on, and enforce the use of standard operating procedures that specifically address operations in abandoned and vacant structures

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