CFD honors 2 killed in 2010 collapse

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December 22, 2011 2:22:14 PM PST
An emotional ceremony Thursday honored two Chicago firefighters who died in the line of duty.

New charges were just filed in connection with that fire.

The abandoned building that caught fire is now leveled, there's nothing more than a concrete slab now where firefighters met to honor the two men.

There were two ceremonies. One of the ceremonies took place at the stockyards. There was another ceremony with family and friends at the scene of the fire.

It was a Wednesday morning, December 22, 2010, when Chicago firefighters were called to a fire in a vacant building on East 75th Street. They arrived to find heavy smoke and the back door pried open. While firefighters searched for victims and worked to put out the fire, the roof collapsed. Two of the firefighters trapped under the brick and heavy timber, Edward Stringer and Corey Ankum, later died.

Bells rang and firefighters saluted on what they called sacred ground. Family members wept at the scene of the fire.

"If you look at the size of what the structure was, the amount of roof that came down, it's amazing we didn't lose more firefighters," said Tom Ryan, Chicago Firefighters Union president, Local 2.

"It's important for us to be here for the family members because the year has gone by, but I know to me and a lot of the people that were here at the fire, it seems like it was yesterday," said Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Robert Hoff.

"I remember him as a good man. He did what he had to do, family first, took care of his family, his son, his daughters, everybody," said Michael Walker, Corey Ankum's nephew.

"They're just taking baby steps. That's all you can do. They're working on it," said Eileen Coglianese, president, CFD Gold Badge Society. "I got to spend time with all of them, and I keep encouraging them because I see them as survivors."

Later in the morning, there was another ceremony. Stringer and Ankum's names were added to a memorial wall at the scene of the stockyard fire, which happened 101 years ago Thursday. The wall collapse killed 21 firefighters, the deadliest firefighter tragedy in Chicago history.

The commissioner says two firefighters are still home a year later recovering from injuries, and one of those firefighters may never be able to return to work.

Hoff also says in the next couple of months there should be new regulations that would require building owners to mark unsafe buildings for firefighters so they know when they arrive.

On Wednesday, criminal charges were filed against the building owner, Chuck Dai. Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez said Dai failed to comply with a court order to secure the building and make repairs.

"He agreed to make the necessary repairs and it was never abided by," Alvarez said.

Dai's attorney said there is no evidence that his client violated the court order.

"There is not a single report on behalf of the city where there was an investigation subsequent to the order being signed in October 2009, where there was an inspection done saying my client was in violation," said attorney Gene Murphy.

It's unclear what sparked the fire, but investigators suspect squatters trying to stay warm may have ignited it.

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