Families, CFD mourn firefighters killed in collapse

December 23, 2010 8:25:49 PM PST
Support floods in for the families of two fallen firefighters as investigators look at the truss roof that collapsed on top of them.

Chicago Firefighters Corey Ankum and Ed Stringer were killed Wednesday while searching a vacant South Shore building after a fire. Two others were trapped and, in all, 17 were injured. Only one remains hospitalized- and he is expected to be released Friday.

Chicago Union President Tom Ryan met with both families Thursday.

"I met with his son and daughter today... They are visibly upset at the loss of their father," Ryan said of Stringer's family.

He also spoke with Ankum's wife. "She's coping as well as can be expected. She has a large support system, a lot of family around, which is good, and actually, you know, i think shock is probably the appropriate word to use," said Ryan.

Ankum's wife is a personal assistant to Mayor Richard M. Daley, whose emotions were raw as he spoke about the loss Wednesday night.

"His wife has been one of my closest assistants, a true friend and a confidante," said Mayor Daley.

Eileen Coglianese heads the Chicago Fire Department's Gold Badge Society, which helps the families of fallen firefighters. Her husband was killed in 1986.

"Here I am, you know, facing next month, the 25th anniversary of my husband's death, and I am still very much a part of the Chicago Fire Department family," said Coglianese.

The Gold Badge Society provides comfort and advice through the funeral process and helps families in the future as well.

As their families mourn, so does the Chicago Fire Department. Flags were lowered to half staff and purple bunting was hung at the stations where Stringer and Ankum worked.

Bow string truss roofs known to be dangerous

On Thursday, investigators returned to the collapsed building, which had a bow string truss roof. That type of roof is known to be dangerous in fires.

Ankum and Stringer were killed by the crushing weight of the collapsed roof. Made of wood timbers, the style was common in the late 1920s when the building at 75th and Stony Island in South Shore was built. The truss is arched like a bowstring and spans a room without vertical supports. The weight is anchored on the exterior walls.

The abandoned building had formerly housed a laundry business.

Firefighters know bowstring truss roofs only too well because of the risk of collapse.

Twelve years ago, two firefighters died when the bowstring truss roof collapsed on them while fighting a fire in a tire and auto repair shop in Beverly. The roof in the Beverly fire was already ablaze.

However, there were no flames on the roof during Wednesday's fatal fire when firefighters entered the vacant Sing Way laundry. They went in because of the possibility that there might have been squatters inside, and before entering, a check of the roof revealed no fire overhead.

Without warning, the roof gave way. Half a dozen men who were on top road it down when it collapsed on the firefighters below.

What may not have been immediately evident to firefighters was the poor condition of the roof. The city had previously cited building owner Chuck Dai for numerous building code violations, including failing to maintain the roof-- which, according to the violation, had holes and was rotted and leaking. The violation also indicated the trusses were vented and rotted.

A consent decree required Dai to fix the problems or sell the building by the beginning of last month. That was not done.

ABC 7 was not able to reach Dai at his home in South Holland or at another South Shore cleaners that he is believed to operate.


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