A deadly Chicago fire exposes the flaws in Chicago fire code, Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Association reports.
Mall fire protection is complex. Each store has its own fire hazards, and it takes a real pro to know how to protect it correctly (plus, keep that protection maintained). The stories below show case malls that not only adequately protected their property and maintained their fire sprinkler and alarm systems, but inadvertently tested the systems with real life fires.
Installing fire sprinkler systems is only the first step to protecting malls. You need to inspect them and maintain them as well. F.E. Moran Fire Protection has a VIP program for malls. Malls get FREE inspections, and F.E. Moran Fire Protection does all the maintenance. Simple solution to malls' fire protection needs.
Fire crews found a fire in a restaurant storage closet at Eastridge Mall.
Before firefighters arrived, a single fire sprinkler head in the building activated. This sprinkler controlled the fire until firefighters could arrive and extinguish it completely.
In an official statement, the fire department said that the fire was contained to that small storage area and the damage was minimal. The exact cost of the damage has not yet been determined. In addition, no one was injured.
"The presence of the system in this case limited spread of the fire to other areas of the structure. What could have been a well-developed and growing fire was controlled in the area of origin until arrival of firefighters. These systems represent an important life safety and property protection component of modern structures," said Casper Fire-EMS.
A fire was reported at 9:17pm at an electronic store at Irving Mall. Heavy smoke was reported; however, when firefighters arrived, the mall's fire sprinkler had already activated. By 10:20pm, the fire was under control.
The fire was contained in the room it originated. There was heavy smoke, but firefighters used fans to vent the smoke out of the building.
A fire at Concord Mills started at 9:15am in the bathroom of an FYE store. Concord Fire Chief Ray Allen reported that the sprinkler system kicked on and helped put out the fire. The stores were able to re-open within two hours of the fire.
Fairfax County fire investigators said that an exhaust fan started a 2-alarm fire at the Tysons Corner Center mall. When firefighters arrived, they reported smoke coming from the roof, and they were quickly able to put out the fire.
The fire was started by an overheated exhaust fan motor that came in contact with paper towel rolls. The fire was in the storage closet of a kiosk. A fire sprinkler ignited and contained the fire until firefighters arrived to extinguish it.
In total, there was about $30,000 in damages and no injuries.
Fire crews responded to a fire in the kitchen of a restaurant at Mill Woods Mall. The fire was contained by an activated fire sprinkler until firefighters could extinguish it.
Magnificent Mile Parking Gets Safer
The Shops at Northbridge is a bustling shopping experience that brings tourists in for a sweet treat at Sugar Factory or a new outfit at Nordstrom. Hundreds, maybe thousands of cars are in and out of the parking garage at 10 East Grand Avenue each day. They need to be protected, so F.E. Moran Fire Protection, Northern Illinois (FPN) was hired to install fire protection in the 11-story parking garage and an adjacent 2-story parking garage - while remaining open. The challenges of working in an open parking garage were real, but they met the difficult task head on and the project ended successfully.
Two Parking Garage Projects with No Closures
The project was challenging on multiple levels. Both, the 11-story and 2-story parking garage remained open during the entire project. This made coordination and scheduling especially important on this project.
The project schedule was very aggressive. FPN was awarded the project in mid-August and needed to complete it before Thanksgiving when the shopping rush would begin for the holidays. Not only did FPN need to coordinate with having parts of the garage open at all times, they also needed to maintain a tight deadline. The aggressive timeline made getting materials on time more challenging, especially since special piping was needed and the lead times were too long for the project timeline.
Planning is the Key to Success
To meet the challenge of working in an open parking garage, FPN made diligent plans ahead of time. They scheduled out where the fitters would be installing and coordinated accordingly. That way, they could keep much of the parking garage open while completing their job on time.
Our project manager, Bob Modica, sought out materials from a variety of places to meet demands. He worked with several fabricators to get the materials he needed on time.
Nothing Compares to Team Effort
In the end, FPN installed a dry-pipe fire protection system with a nitrogen generator with 3,900 sprinkler heads. A nitrogen generation system, when added to a dry pipe sprinkler system, removes oxygen and reduces corrosion. Nitrogen has a negative dew point, which dries out any water that may be in the pipes, eliminating two elements that cause corrosion.
The Magnificent Mile parking garage got a dry-pipe system with nitrogen to prevent corrosion, on time without inconveniencing Shops of Northbridge guests. Bob Modica said, "This was truly a team effort. The field, design, purchasing, and project management all worked together and most importantly, communicated well throughout the project to make this a highly successful project."
Firefighters say that fire sprinklers could help South Carolina's dire statistics. South Carolina is a leading state for fire-related deaths.
A recent fire showed that fire sprinklers make a huge difference. An apartment caught fire in Beaufort, SC, when firefighters arrived four minutes after the call, the fire was extinguished and no one was injured. In fact, firefighters didn't have much to do. They mopped up some water and called it a day.
"We've seen buildings that don't have sprinkler systems and buildings that do have sprinkler systems. It's quite a relief to get on a scene, see all those families evacuating, which was a good thing, and be able to go in there, and know that it's just a small, essentially a mop up operation," said Daniel Byrne with the Burton Fire District.
As an example of what can happen when there aren't sprinkler systems, Byrne explained a fire he worked on at another apartment complex.
"We had a major fire at the Mossy Oaks Village apartment complex a number of years ago, several families were displaced. It started as a fire in a closet and just grew out of control. There was no sprinkler system and they lost the building."
South Carolina opted to not require fire sprinklers in apartment buildings.
Byrne continued, "That frustrates us at the firefighter level because not only are we watching families become homeless, not only do we see the injuries and deaths, but we're putting our lives at risk going in to put out a fire that technology and codes could have eliminated before it even really got started."
What does the ancient city of Pompeii and a small lumber town in Wisconsin have in common?
Warning Signs. Time to evacuate. Fast moving disaster.
Read our fire in history feature on the Peshtigo, WI fire and learn how this small town is reminiscent of the 79AD tourist town of Pompeii.
On Sunday, October 8, 1871 - the same day as the Great Chicago Fire - a control burn was taking place in Peshtigo, WI. At the time, Peshtigo was a logging town near Green Bay with a small population of less than 1,200 people.
A terrible drought was plaguing the Midwest the entire summer and into the fall in 1871. The day of the fire, winds were high with an incoming storm. While the rain was much needed, the wind was the catalyst in this disaster.
When the winds (110 MPH) came in, the control burn was no longer being controlled. It immediately swept through the town of wood buildings, forest, and wooden sidewalks. Witnesses were recorded as saying that when the fire swept through, it sounded like a train.
The fire traveled through the forest, burning 1.5 million acres of land through Wisconsin and Michigan. It became the worst forest fire in North American history.
The fire became a fire whirl (fire tornado), throwing rail cars and houses into the air.
While Peshtigo wasn't the only town affected by the fire, it was the only one that was nearly destroyed.
Reverend Peter Pernin recounted that during the fire the survivors flocked to the bodies of water nearby. Pernin waded in a river all night with several other people.
"The flames darted over the river as they did over land. The air was full of [flames], or, rather, the air itself was on fire. Our heads were in continual danger. It was only by throwing water constantly over them and our faces, and beating the river with our hands that we kept the flames at bay. Not far from me, a woman was supporting herself in the water with a log. After a time, a cow swam past. There was more than a dozen animals in the river, impelled by instinct, and they succeeded in saving their lives. The [cow] overturned the log to which the woman was clinging and she disappeared into the water. I thought her lost, but soon saw her emerge from [the river] holding on with one hand to the horns of the cow, and throwing water on herself with the other [hand]."
The next morning, the townspeople emerged from the river, looking like zombies, searching for family.
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In the end, the fire killed between 1,500 and 2,500 people through Wisconsin and Michigan. However, 1,000 of the victims were from Peshtigo, which was hit the worst.
The fire overtook the town and the only means of communication available - a telegraph line. No one could communicate. The town had no fire crews, only a single horse-drawn fire cart. No one knew of the fire for days. Once the media learned of the fire, doctors started to come to the town to treat survivors.
This fire was a true tragedy in the town. Families were found bound together by the fire. A single tavern had 200 victims in it. Some people couldn't take the thought of dying by fire and took action for themselves and their family. Most of the people who flocked to the river, other bodies of water, and wells survived, but some died from hypothermia or drowning. There were so many dead in Peshtigo that 350 people were buried in a mass grave because no one was alive to identify them.
The fire concluded when it reached the waters of Green Bay. At that time, the winds died down and rain started to fall, ending the fire.
At the same time as the Peshtigo fire, other fires were destroying towns. The Great Chicago fire and a fire in Door Peninsula happened on the same day. The theory is that the drought, several control burns taking place, and high winds caused all of the fires.
This fire was one of the worst in American history, yet, not too many people know about it. The Great Chicago Fire took over the media, even though the death toll was 350 versus 1,500-2,500.
Writer's note: As I researched the Peshtigo fire, it reminded me of Pompeii. Like Pompeii, the people of Peshtigo had signs that they should evacuate. Peshtigo looked like it had snowed with ash for days before the fire grew out of control. In Pompeii, the skies grew dark from the eruption and ash fell throughout the town, but it took a full day for the disaster to hit, giving citizens time to evacuate. Just like Peshtigo's 110MPH wind storm causing the disaster, Pompeii had a 100MPH surge of superheated poison gas and pulverized rock. Like the Peshtigo fire, the Mount Vesuvius volcano swallowed everything in its path - people and buildings alike.
What fire in history interests you most? Maybe we'll feature it on our next Fire in History blog. Comment below.
We interviewed Colleen Obos, Sales Executive, and Mike Jankovich, designer about their opinions on why our customer retention is so high at F.E. Moran Fire Protection.
In our interview, Colleen and Mike explain why customers continue working with F.E. Moran Fire Protection and what drew them to their jobs there.
Check out this inside look into our fire protection contracting and service business.
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2017 is over.
Last year was a wild ride with a new president, North Korea testing nukes, cryptocurrencies ruled, and so much more. The Moran Group had quite the year too. They had their 60th anniversary!
To celebrate the new year, we are sharing our top posts from 2017.
Our most popular post of the year was the Station Nightclub Fire blog and video. In 2003, the worst nightclub fire to occur in the U.S. made headlines. The pyrotechnics from an indoor concert caught sound proofing material on fire. The fire killed 100 people and injured 200 people.
Next up, our profile of the Logan Valley mall fire caught our readers interest as the second most viewed post. In 1994, a fire at the mall damaged 42 stores. It financially devastated several businesses. The NFPA determined that the main cause of the devastation was the lack of fire sprinklers.
Our blog post about the much-misunderstood 5-year fire sprinkler inspection caught the attention of property managers. The post even includes a 3-step video on what happens when an obstruction is found and a FREE e-course to learn more.
In Madison, Wisconsin, a fire sprinkler law went into effect and then reversed within 24 hours. The original post was written in February, and we wrote a follow up article on it last week. Find out why the fire sprinkler rule will never be enforced.
A washer for surgical equipment caught fire, and was immediately put out when a fire sprinkler activated. The heating element in the washer malfunctioned and overheated. We wrote a follow up article showcasing the top causes for hospital fires.
That wraps up our top blog posts of 2017. Tell us in the comments, what were your favorite posts from this year? What fire sprinkler news sparked interest in you?
The NFSA recently completed a burn test, hosted by Assemblyman John Wisniewski. He wanted to show the importance of handling Christmas trees effectively. The U.S. averages 200 fires a year caused by Christmas trees.
"This holiday season should be a time of joy, but each year preventable fires caused by Christmas trees and holiday decorations bring tragedy to families all across the country," said Wisniewski. "However, there are simple steps everyone can take to prevent them."
According to the NFPA, this is what you should do when choosing a tree.
1. Pick a fresh tree with green needles that do not fall off when touched. You can also choose a fire resistant artificial tree.
2. Place the tree at least 3 feet away from a heat source such as a fireplace, stove, candle, radiator, or heating vent. One in every four Christmas tree fires are from a heat source being too close to the tree, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
3. Add water to the tree stand daily.
4. Make sure the tree does not block an exit.
5. Use lights that have been independently tested in a laboratory and approved for what you are using them for - indoor or outdoor lights.
6. Turn off Christmas lights when you leave the house or go to bed.
7. Get rid of the tree right after Christmas. Dried out trees are a major fire danger.
The American Christmas Tree Association says that live Christmas trees cause $13 million in damage annually from fires. So, if you choose to go with a live tree, be safe and take the proper precautions.
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We are proud to be in the fire protection industry. It is emphasized even more when we see fire sprinkler saves in the news. What better reminder that fire sprinklers matter than to get a glimpse into the lives that have been spared thanks to fire sprinklers?
Here are our top five fire sprinkler saves from November.
1. Fire Sprinkler Saves Apartment Building from Dryer Fire | November 27, 2017
A dryer fire activated fire sprinklers at a Kenosha apartment building. The fire started inside the fire and spread to the laundry room until the fire sprinklers went off.
"Once it did enter the room, it came into contact with a sprinkler head, which set off the apartment's sprinkler system due to the heat. It suppressed the fire," said Battalion Chief Matthew Haerter.
There were no injuries.
2. Fire Sprinklers Save Office Building from Fire during Renovation | November 24, 2017
Firefighters were called to an office building in East Northport when a fire ignited during renovations. When firefighters arrived, they noted that the fire sprinklers activated and extinguished the fire.
The fire is under investigation, but it appears that rags soaked in stain started the fire.
3. Sprinkler Systems Saves Home in View Royal | November 24, 2017
Fire crews were called to the scene of a condo fire at 9:40am. The fire started in a bedroom, caused by unattended candles and incense.
"If this hadn't been a sprinklered building, this would have been a significantly different event. Thankfully, the sprinklers kicked in and controlled the fire. It's a good outcome today," said View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst.
View Royal has a proactive fire sprinkler bylaw that required all new construction of duplexes or larger to have fire sprinklers. This law saved the condo complex!
4. Arson at Women's Health Clinic Extinguished by Fire Sprinklers | November 22, 2017
A women's clinic in Temecula was damaged by arson fire. Firefighters were called to the scene around 1am on November 22. When they arrived, the fire was extinguished from the fire sprinklers.
"We were notified about the fire by an alarm company, and by the time our crews reached the location, the fire sprinkler system had extinguished the flames. The contents of one room were damaged," said Riverside County Fire Department spokeswoman April Newman.
5. Arson at Walmart - Fire Sprinklers Save the Store | November 22, 2017
A walmart in Cedar Park, TX was set on fire by an arsonist. The fires were set inside the Walmart at 1:44am. One in the apparel section, the other in jewelry. Three sprinkler heads activated, and put out the flames.
When the news is filled with unfortunate events, it's nice to hear about how fire sprinklers save lives.
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Only weeks before the holiday season, 95 families lost loved ones in a tragic fire at the Chicago Catholic school, Our Lady of the Angels. Parents were held back from police lines surrounding the school. Neighbors were taking in injured kids to shield them from the frigid temperatures. Kids were jumping from three-story high windows to escape the flames. The smaller kids were pushed back from the escape route from the bigger kids clamoring through the windows.
Can you believe that the school met fire and building codes?
This tragedy brought to light the gross lack of codes to protect people and property from fire, especially in public assembly buildings.
After this tragedy, that all changed.
On Monday, December 1, 1958, a fire started that changed building code throughout the country for schools.
Our Lady of the Angels was an elementary school run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago with 1600 students enrolled. The school was k-8 with severe overcrowding. Many classrooms had 50-60 students packed tightly into the room.
The building was oddly configured because it had been renovated several times. A south wing was built in 1939 and was connected to the north wing by an annex. Together it formed a u-shape with a courtyard in the middle. Generally, when a renovation takes place, the building needs to upgrade to new building codes; however, this school was grandfathered into previous standards. In 1958, when the fire took place, Our Lady of the Angels not only met code, but was considered well-maintained.
The northwest stairwell landing had no fire barrier blocking door. The western stairwell landing second floor had two substandard doors with glass panes that broke from the heat of the fire.
The fire ignited near a stairwell at the end of the day, right before dismissal. Nearly all the victims were on the second floor of the building.
At 2pm in the north wing a fire ignited in a trash barrel filled with cardboard. The fire smoldered for 20 minutes completely undetected. Slowly it heated up the stairwell and blanketed the space with a light gray smoke. That light gray smoke became black, thick, oily, and toxic soon enough.
The smoke began to go up the stairwell to the second floor, but remained unnoticed until three eight grade girls saw it while running errands at 2:25pm. At this point, the fire had been smoldering and building for 25 minutes. The girls, Janet Delaria, Francis Guzaldo, and Karen Hobik were returning to their classrooms on the second floor when they saw the fire. The girls ran to the classroom to tell their teacher, Sister Mary Helaine O’Neill, about the fire. Only Janet Delaria survived.
Sister Mary Helaine O’Neill made the decision that it was too dangerous to evacuate and shut the door to await rescue. However, it was several more minutes before any alarms sounded.
While the fire alarm sounded, a window burst from the heat, causing a surge from the increase in oxygen. This fire surge caught a 30-inch by 24-foot roll of tarred building paper on fire, making the smoke even more deadly.
The wooden staircase burst into flames and became a chimney for the smoke and fire to the second floor.
The fire could now be seen from the windows and had finally caught the attention of others. The school janitor James Raymond saw the fire and instructed two boys that were emptying garbage to evacuate. Instead, those boys went to their classroom to warn the teacher.
The teachers of the boys Raymond told to evacuate attempted to sound the alarm, but it never went off. The teachers proceeded to evacuate the children and went back to attempt to sound the alarm again. This time it sounded in the building; however, it was not connected to the fire department.
Raymond then went to the housekeeper to call the fire department and began evacuating the children at 2:30pm. However, the first call to the fire department didn’t come in until 2:42pm. One minute after this call, Barbara Glowcacki, the owner of a candy store near the north wing called the fire department when a passing motorist, Elmer Barkaus, saw the fire and asked to use the phone.
By the time the fire alarm sounded, the children and nuns in the north wing, second floor were trapped.
The doors had transom for ventilation. Once the transom broke from the heat, the fire and toxic smoke flooded the classrooms. The fire swept down the hallway, and into the classrooms. Children began jumping from the window, twenty-five feet above concrete and rock.
The fire department arrived four minutes after getting the call. However, at this point, the fire had already been burning and spreading for forty minutes.
When firefighters arrived, they immediately elevated it to a 5-alarm fire.
Firefighters began rescuing kids from the second-floor window. At this point, the fire and smoke was so bad kids were stumbling and crawling to the window. Many had already jumped or were pushed from the window to escape.
At 2:55pm, a flashover occurred, catching the roof on fire. The roof caved in over rooms 208, 209, and 210. Many died instantly.
Priests raced to the scene, grabbing scared students, helping them escape. Father Joseph Ognibene and Sam Tororice, the father of student Rose Tororice, rescued most of the students in room 209 by passing them through the courtyard window and placing them on the annex.
Raymond was cut badly, but kept helping kids escape. He worked with Father Charles Hund to open locked emergency doors in 207. Thanks to their efforts, all kids from 207 survived.
In the end, 160 kids were rescued, 92 kids died, and 3 nuns died.
Injured students were taken to five different hospitals. Some were taken in strangers’ cars to the hospitals. The news of this tragedy spread across the country and had far-reaching effects.
The NFPA president, Percy Bugbee said, “There are no new lessons to be learned from this fire; only old lessons that tragically went unheeded.”
Nationwide, school fire safety was enacted. Within a year, 16,500 schools in the U.S. were brought up to current code. NFPA estimated that 68% of U.S. communities inaugurated and completed fire safety improvements. One of those improvements was an increase in law-mandated fire drills.
Fire alarm boxes became required to be installed in front of all schools and public assembly venues.
Interior fire alarms needed to be connected to street fire alarm boxes.
The most critical change was that fire sprinklers were supposed to be installed in critical schools. However, when inspectors came through nine months later, only 400 in 1,040 Chicago schools that were required to install fire sprinklers did install them.
Our Lady of Angels was rebuilt with fire sprinklers and opened to students in September 1960.
The school closed in 1999 and the building is now leased to a charter school.
Video footage from the fire is below.