Last updated: 03:31 PM ET, Sun November 22 2015

Fire in Chicago’s Hancock Center Skyscraper Injures 5

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | November 22, 2015

Fire in Chicago’s Hancock Center Skyscraper Injures 5

Photo via Twitter/CFDMedia

A fire broke out in Chicago’s John Hancock Center Saturday afternoon, causing minor injuries to five people — and raised questions about the structure’s fire safety standards, ABC 7 Chicago reported.

The conflagration started in a residence on the 50th floor of the 100-story building, currently fourth-tallest in the Windy City. Alarms were raised when, as ABC 7 put it, “thick smoke and flames began shooting from the building's east side.”

Over 100 firefighters and six ambulances arrived in response, and fire officials told ABC 7 that it took just a half hour to put out the flames. But the unit where the blaze started was completely gutted.

A full evacuation was never called for the Hancock Center, which contains private luxury condos, offices, retail stores and an observatory/restaurant/bar at the 95th floor that is popular with tourists. Kim Wichman, one such visitor, said to ABC 7, "It's scary because you always think of 9/11, when the fire (started) and the building collapsed," she said. "You don't know what the structure's like."

Though there was no official call to vacate the building, many left of their own accord, descending numerous flights of stairs. "We started going down," said Jessica Mays to ABC 7. "I had my scarf covering my mouth. The smoke was terrible."

Five people were slightly injured, including a Chicago police officer that sought to warn residents about the fire and suffered from smoke inhalation, ABC 7 said.

Fire safety standards are a concern for some residents, perceived shortcomings that could also impact tourists and workers that frequent the skyscraper.

Resident Dr. John Whapham told ABC 7 that he feels current fire safety standards may not be able to keep a calamity such as this one from happening again. Whapham did say the building has smoke detectors, but per the city's fire ordinance, owners of high rises built before 1975 are not required to install sprinklers.

Also a concern, as Whapham said to ABC 7, was that there was "not a single alarm, not a single announcement anywhere, nor did the expensive alarms we spent the last year and a half putting in go off."

"To my knowledge (the alarm system was) functioning, it was intermittent and the building owners (are) looking at that," said Deputy Commissioner John McNicholas, Chicago Fire Department to ABC 7.

The blaze is currently under investigation. 


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