Fire erupts at Loop high-rise

March 6, 2011 8:27:53 PM PST
Smoke poured from a Loop high-rise after a fire broke out on the first floor Sunday.

Chicago firefighters had to assist several people out from the upper floors. Two people were taken to hospitals with minor injuries.

The fire broke out about 1:30 p.m. Sunday in a building at 33 N. Dearborn. Several streets were shut down.

It was fortunate that this happened on a Sunday because the bank where it started was closed so there was no one inside.

There were few people inside the building who had to be evacuated.

Police and firefighters closed a large stretch of Dearborn and Washington streets to accommodate all the firefighters and paramedics who responded.

The first witnesses reported seeing a wall of fire coming from the first floor teller area in at the bank on Dearborn.

Fortunately, those witnesses were police officers on bike patrol and they quickly called the fire department and helped evacuate two adjoining restaurants.

Since it was a Sunday, there were few people working in the upper floors of the 22-story high-rise, but the few who were inside got out quickly.

"We were in a conference room and we couldn't determine where it was coming from. We stepped outside in the hallway, and we could smell the smoke. It was stronger, but we still couldn't see any smoke, and then the smoke started to reach the side of the building where we were on. So we just grabbed our stuff and went downstairs," said witness Tara Wilbon.

Firefighters arrived quickly and quickly called a second alarm.

That has become standard procedure for high-rise fires ever since the fire almost seven years ago right across the street at 69 W. Washington. That fire on the 12th floor at the Cook County Administration Building claimed six lives and injured several others who were trapped in stairwells.

"They extinguished the fire very quickly. It was a small fire but we called the extra help just to be safe," said Chief Mike Fox, Chicago Fire Department.

Paramedics transported two people from the nearby Walgreens with what they described as "minor smoke inhalation."

Smoke continued to pour out of the building long after firefighters had extinguished the flames. Many of those who escaped say they are relieved they managed to contain the damage to the first floor area.

"It was because we couldn't tell it was coming," Wilbon said. "So it was a little scary."

In all, the fire department helped evacuate about 15 people from the building.

Fire investigators are still trying to determine what caused this fire, since no one was inside the bank at the time.