Woman dead in Edgewater high-rise fire

April 12, 2010 3:31:29 PM PDT
One woman believed to be in her 40s was confirmed dead after a fire broke out Monday morning on the 38th floor of a 55-story North Side building.No other injuries were reported.

The fire broke out at 5415 N. Sheridan Rd. in a condo building called the Park Tower. The building has approximately 700 residents.

The one-unit fire started about 4:10 a.m. The fire was put out at 4:50 a.m.

At 4:25 a.m., police and 30 or 40 fire trucks were on the scene.

Investigators say it does not appear there was a working smoke detector in the unit where the woman died. Preliminary reports say a burning candle may be the cause of the fatal fire.

Sheridan was blocked during the firefight.

Most people forced to leave because of the blaze were back home Monday night. And as some clean-up continues, many residents are waiting to learn more about their neighbor.

Matt Godlewski and Danielle Abbate were finally able to return to their 38th-floor apartment about four hours after the fire claimed the life of their neighbor across the hall.

"We've only run into her a couple times either, passing in the hallway, so we really haven't had a lot of time to get talk with her or to know a lot about her," said Godlewski.

The high school teacher and hospital worker were among dozens of residents from the two floors above and two floors below the fire who were evacuated to escape the flames and smoke.

"Once firefighters opened the door, that scared me the most because all the smoke was pouring out. It was completely black, you couldn't see anything," said Abbate.

Fire officials say the blaze was confined to the studio unit of the victim and could have been sparked by a burning which may have fallen onto a couch in the middle of the apartment. Investigators found a candleholder in that sofa.

"The people I work for have lived here 30 years. They're trying to find out. They don't know who it is either and want to figure out if they know the person. It's a tragedy to hear about this," said Isiah Evans.

Surprisingly, many of the condominium building's 700 residents, like Lois Senderoff, were just learning about what happened hours later.

"It concerned my daughter. She says they'd never get you out because they stop the elevators," said Senderoff.

It also concerns Tom Lia of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board. He says the death is a reminder of the importance of high rise fire safety.

"We'd like to see the city enforce the code that they have. There's 600 buildings not being enforced. If they did that the people could see where they stood and adopt safety measures they need to get up to code," said Lia.

A resolution to determine how stringently the city of Chicago is enforcing its high rise safety ordinance was introduced by Chicago Aldermen Ed Burke and John Pope after the fatal 260 East Chestnut fire. The resolution is stuck in committee.

Meanwhile, officials at the city's building department maintain public safety is not being compromised because high-rises still have time to comply.


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