The fire started on the 15th floor and spread upward, unit by unit to the 24th floor. The Chicago Fire Department reportedly determined the cause was “reckless use of smoking materials”. Worse, the smoke detector in the unit was not operational. Over 300 firefighters and other first responders and 80 pieces of emergency hardware were required to respond to the event. To learn more, NBC 5 Chicago has a pretty thorough report: Click Here Also, ABC 7: Click Here
Certainly, as your Management team, we are looking closely at not just what caused this fire, but how it spread, how it was handled, how the building’s population was managed, complications the authorities faced, and the aftermath. We know that very little in the way of evacuation was carried out or considered. Most residents were ordered to shelter in place. The authorities determined who would evacuate and when as events unfolded. Knowing what we know, that may have saved lives and prevented further injuries. We will continue following this closely as more is revealed.
BUT, we do know cigarette and marijuana smoke odors are our #1 complaint already. It’s a problem we face now. While smoke odors don’t mean a fire will occur, it underscores the presence and how prolific it is for us. We also know our team finds smoke detectors either not operational or removed when we conduct our annual inspections – even one not working would be too many and any is a problem. These are realities we face and cannot ignore. Neither as management nor as a community.
I am in my 16th year as Park Tower’s manager, and I am reminded that a cigarette was to blame for a fire during that time, which seriously injured the occupant and resulted in smoke and water damage to about 15 units. Another fire resulted in the death of the occupant, though they were not certain whether a cigarette or candle was to blame. IN BOTH CASES, the smoke detectors were not operational.
We can’t imagine residents don’t have questions and concerns. Our team was already reviewing our emergency procedures handbook, and we’ve scheduled a Resident Emergency Procedures meeting for March 27th. Plans were already underway to have a healthy discussion about “Active Shooter” response – of course we will now integrate more on the topic of fire response as well. In the interim, there are a several things you can do:
1. If you are a smoker, take steps now to ensure you do so safely and responsibly. By all means, please consider smoking outside. As our number one complaint, you will not only improve safety but you will improve your neighbors’ living experience.
2. Brush up on our Resident Emergency Procedures manual. This is updated annually, and was updated in 2022. Even if you’ve read it before, or attended one of our past Emergency Procedures meetings, give yourself a refresher: Click Here
3. Check your smoke detectors regularly (at least monthly), AND NEVER REMOVE THEM! Click Here to review our recent post about the new mandate for 10 Year Smoke Detectors. Why do they have batteries we can’t remove? Because of how many are found not operational, such as in the recent Kenwood fire. We are VERY PLEASED to report that since that post, many owners have taken advantage of the opportunity to switch out their detectors. So much so our team had to order more!
4. MARK YOUR CALENDAR!