High Rise Owner Cited for Fire Code Violations

Chicago's Home Rule status complicates owners' legal responsibility

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Illinois' fire marshall on Wednesday cited the owners a high-rise building where a woman died in a fire earlier this month with more than a dozen fire code violations. But Chicago's Home Rule status complicates the owners' legal responsibility. (Published Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012)

    Illinois' fire marshal on Wednesday cited the owners a high-rise building where a woman died in a fire earlier this month with more than a dozen fire code violations.

    But Chicago's Home Rule status complicates the owners' legal responsibility.

    State Fire Marshall Larry Matkaitis cited Planned Property Management, which owns the building at 3130 N. Lake Shore Drive, for 19 violations. Among them: not having an automatic elevator recall system, which would have grounded the elevators during a fire, or an automatic sprinkler system.

    "Sprinklers have been required in all high rise residential buildings under State law since 2002,” Matkaitis said in a statement. "The State Fire Code is the minimum fire code that must be met by Illinois municipalities with concurrent jurisdictions, including Chicago."

    The building had neither system, but according to Chicago's code, it wasn't required to due to its age. Additionally, the building was not yet required to update its fire alarm system. An ordinance passed that required older high-rises to be retrofitted with a modern, connected system by this month was recently delayed. The new deadline is in 2015.

    "There was neglect in that they were trying to use the Chicago code rather than the state code," said Jim Schifiliti, a fire protection consultant, explaining the code enforcement system can be very confusing.

    Chicago's Home Rule means the city only enforces its own municipal standards, and those are less stringent than the standards the fire marshal used.

    Shantel McCoy, 32, died in the Jan. 8th fire after the elevator in her building carried her right toward the intense heat and smoke from the 12th floor fire. It's believed McCoy, who moved to Chicago less than a year ago from her native Philadelphia, died instantly when the doors opened.

    "Maybe this person and this fire, they'll finally start to address it and come up with their solutions," said Schifiliti.

    The fire also injured nine other people, including two firefighters.

    McCoy's mother has filed a lawsuit against Planned Property Management.

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