By Bridget Doyle and Patrick Svitek
4:26 PM CST, January 22, 2013
Two men died and a woman was seriously injured when an extra-alarm fire broke out in a high-rise on South Shore Drive this morning.
All three victims suffered full cardiac arrest, apparently from breathing in smoke, according to Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.
One of the men was in his 30s and the other was in his 40s, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. The first man was pronounced dead at 9:54 a.m. at the University of Chicago Medical Center and the other was pronounced later at Jackson Park Hospital, officials said.
Their names were not being released pending notification of family, according to the medical examiner's office.
The men were found on the seventh floor and the woman was found in the lobby of the building in the 6700 block of South Shore Drive, also in full cardiac arrest, Langford said. Paramedics were able to revive her with CPR and took her to the University of Chicago Medical Center, Langford said.
A firefighter suffered minor injuries, officials said.
The fire broke out around 8:40 a.m. and was quickly raised to a 3-11 alarm with a call for at least 10 ambulances, officials said. Firefighters on a ladder battled the blaze on the seventh floor while firefighters on another ladder tried to reach residents on balconies on the other side of the building.
Langford said the fire may have started in the bedroom of an apartment on the 7th floor. The blaze spread to an apartment on the 8th floor, he said. The fire was under control by 9:25 a.m.
Sondra Phillips, 59, sits on the Lakefront Place association board and said she was about to leave her apartment Tuesday morning when she heard the fire alarm go off.
"My neighbor knocked on my door to tell me there was a fire. The fire department moved everyone to the lobby or exercise room," Phillips said. "Nobody was panicked; it was as orderly as a fire could be."
Some residents with illnesses appeared to be a little winded after their trek down the stairs, Phillips said, but firefighters on site were able to "settle them down."
"I'm glad it happened during the daytime -- a lot of people weren't here," Phillips said.
Phillips, who has lived in the building for eight years, said residents have been coming down to the building's mailroom and office, asking about the two who died.
"People are very concerned," Phillips said. "We can't tell them anything yet because we don't know."
Aside from clean-up crews and fire personnel, things at the south side apartment complex appeared to be returning to normal into the evening.
Cornell Graham, 24, payed for a pizza in the apartment building complex late Tuesday afternoon. Graham said he was with his roommate in their 12th floor apartment this morning when they heard the alarm go off.
"We didn't think it was that serious," Graham said, noting the scene was fairly calm. "We sat with other people in the building's exercise room for about an hour and a half."
Graham said the incident was "scary" for residents.
"It could have been way worse," Graham said. "They got it under control quickly."
Edward Parks, 48, said he was sleeping in his 11th floor apartment when the fire alarm went off. Parks said he grabbed the warmest clothes he could find and joined other residents in the hall.
"It was real cloudy in the halls when I went out to see what was happening," Parks said, his mustache covered in icicles. "There was a fireman in the hall. It was an orderly exit."
Parks, who has lived in the building for five years, said he had been standing outside for more than an hour in the freezing weather.
Jevon Smith, 30, lives on the 5th floor and said he was at a neighbor's apartment when he saw the fire from a window. "There were huge flames coming from three apartments," Smith said. "I'm glad I wasn't home - just hope no one was hurt."
"This cold is brutal," Smith said, rubbing his hands together.
Jay Fizer, 20 was sleeping in his 10th floor apartment when smoke alarms started going off. "Next thing I know, I open the door and hear a little panic and whatever. . .We just grabbed our stuff and got out of there."
Fizer said a "big old wind of smoke just came out of nowhere" as soon as he and a few other residents got about halfway down the stairs. But they made it to the first floor exit.
"We did it on our own," Fizer said. "No help. Just God."
This is "the worst time for this to happen," he said, standing outside the building in nearly subzero temperatures.
The fire department did not order an evacuation of the building, telling residents it was safer to stay in their apartments, Langford said. Firefighters then went door to door, checking on them.
Water from hoses and hydrants had turned to sheets of ice around the building. Dozens of fire trucks, ambulances and police cars lined South Shore Drive.
An American Red Cross team was on the scene to help find shelter for families displaced by the fire, spokeswoman Patricia Kemp said.
Kemp said the crisis team would likely be meeting the injured residents and their families at the hospital. "We'll also be replacing some items lost in the fire," Kemp said.
Chicago Tribune reporter Carlos Sadovi also contributed.
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