Sprinkler Concerns in John Hancock Center

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Chicago, IL -- Three fires at the (formerly called) John Hancock Center are calling to attention the lack of fire sprinklers in the high-rise.

In one day, two different fires erupted on the residential floors of the high rise, in two different apartments.  The fires weren't related, as they were on different floors and hours apart.

One of the fires started in a personal trainer's apartment kitchen.  The 32 year old was seriously injured.  He was taken to Northwestern hospital in serious condition.  Since then, he was transferred to the intensive care unit of another unnamed hospital.

A second fire started on the 69th floor when a microwave started a fire.  No one was injured.

Both fires had one thing in common:  no fire sprinklers.

"They keep rolling the dice on whether a fire is going to be deadly or not," said Tom Lia, executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NIFSAB).

The reason this high-rise doesn't have fire sprinklers on the residential floors is because the city of Chicago doesn't require it.  The building was built in 1965.  The city doesn't require fire sprinklers in residential skyscrapers built before 1975.

The building does not have fire sprinklers from floor 44 through 92 - where 1,500 residents live.

Because there were no fire sprinklers, the fire burned until the fire department could extinguish it.

"It's very serious and very difficult for us to get equipment and manpower, tools, all that up there.  We're fighting smoke conditions.  We're walking up a lot of stairs with all our equipment 'cause we don't go to the fire floor, we go two or three floors below the fire," said Deputy District Fire Chief Jeffrey Horan.

The third fire was in the parking garage, which has fire sprinklers.  This fire was contained by the sprinklers.

Read more about this fire and high-rise fire law here.