KENWOOD — This week’s deadly fire at a Kenwood high-rise was started by someone smoking in a resident’s bedroom, firefighters said.
Units on nine of the 25 floors of the Harper Square Cooperative Apartments, 4850 S. Lake Park Ave. in Kenwood, caught fire Wednesday morning.
One person was found dead in the 15th floor unit where the fire started, seven people were hospitalized in fair to good condition and one firefighter was slightly injured, officials said. More than 30 other residents have refused treatment at a nearby hospital.
The fire started when someone accidentally set fire to flammable material in an apartment while they were smoking, officials announced on Thursday.
“The Office of Fire Investigation has concluded the cause of the extra fire alarm [Lake Park Avenue] is the careless use of smoking materials that have ignited combustibles in a bedroom”, firefighters said in a statement. “The fire is accidental.”
A smoke detector in the apartment was not working at the time of the fire, officials said.
The smoke detectors in the Harper Square apartments are battery-powered and the detectors in the building’s hallways are wired to the building’s electricity, Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said at a news conference Wednesday.
Fire and water damage rendered “the entire east side of the apartment building,” Ald, uninhabitable. Sophia King said Wednesday. Dozens of residents have received help from the Red Cross after the fire, she said.
The Harper Square Cooperative building has been cited for 19 fire-related violations since October 2021, according to city data. Officials have not established a link between the violations and Wednesday’s fire.
Two violations were still pending as of this week, Buildings Department spokesman Michael Puccinelli said. City inspectors visited Harper Square on November 7, 2022 and cited the building twice for not having fire labels on its trash closet doors.
They also found violations relating to the building’s masonry and a failure to submit a report on the condition of the exterior walls, although there are no indications that they are related to fire safety.
City attorneys are suing to settle the November violations in Circuit Court of Cook County. That case will be heard on February 2.
The building has been cited at least 17 other times for fire safety violations in the past 15 months. All of these have since been resolved with the building department, Puccinelli said.
Six of these violations included instructions to complete a test of the fire alarm and emergency communication system and submit the results. The remainder largely involved repairing or replacing aspects of the fire pump, standpipe, and sprinkler systems.
The building’s communication system and fire pump apparently “worked fine” on Wednesday, fire department spokesman Larry Langford he told the Tribune.
Building Department’s inspectors were at the scene of [Wednesday’s] tragic fire and will work closely with the Chicago Fire Department in the investigation and assessment of the damages,” Puccinelli said.
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