2 firefighters dead, 17 injured in 3-alarm blaze

Two firefighters died Wednesday morning after a wall collapsed during a 3-11 alarm fire in an abandoned building the city’s South Side, fire officals said.

Officials said firefighters were searching the vacant building on the 1700 East block of 75th Street for homeless people when part of the building gave way and the roof came down. Four firefighters were trapped, and 17 were injured during the rescue of those firefighters.

Police squad cars escorted two ambulances to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where entrances were blocked to Lake Shore Drive to allow for clear roads. The two other trapped firefighters were transported to Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn.

Firefighters Cody Ankum, taken to Christ, and Edward Stringer, taken to Northwestern, both died a short time later. Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said both firefighters died of trauma.

“The search effort was aggressive,” Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff said at an afternoon news conference. “Every firefighter that was there did the best they could to save their brothers.”

Hoff said fire commanders decided to search the building because “people in this kind of weather seek refuge and we take no building as being vacant. We do it cautiously, but we go in for people who may try to get out of the cold.”

According to fire officials, a “mayday” call was sent, and a Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) was dispatched. In total, over 60 companies responded to the scene. An EMS Plan 2 was also called, which immediately brings 10 ambulances to the scene.

“Our prayers go out to the families of these two firefighters and to their brothers and sisters in the Chicago Fire Department, who put their lives in danger every day to keep Chicagoans safe,” Mayor Daley said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Mayoral Candidate Rahm Emanuel also released a statement Wednesday evening, “Amy and my thoughts and prayers are with their families today. We are also wishing a speedy recovery to the 17 other firefighters who were injured today trying to contain the fire and rescue their colleagues.”

The firefighters’ deaths came on the 100th anniversary of the Union Stockyards fire, that killed 21 firefighters.