Two firefighters died and more than a dozen others were injured Wednesday morning when a building collapsed on the South Side.
The firefighters were taken from the building, at 75th and Stony Island, to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
The firefighters killed were identified as Corey Ankum, 34, and Edward Stringer, 47. Ankum had been on the force for nearly two years. Stringer was a 12-year veteran.
"Morale is low," said one lieutenant who preferred to remain unnamed after hearing about two fellow fire fighters dying. "There's a sadness."
Both men died while searching for people inside the building. The site of a former dry cleaning business, the building, at 1744 E. 75th St., has been vacant for the last five years and has become a favorite spot for homeless people seeking shelter from the winter weather.
"They have secured the cleaners several times but the squatters still come back and eventually find a way to break into the place, said Jorico Smart, who co-owns a garage next door.
The blaze broke out at around 7 a.m. Authorities upgraded the fire from two alarms to three alarms after the firefighters were trapped. All the men were accounted for by 8:30 a.m., said Fire Department Spokesman Larry Langford.
"The fire had been knocked down. They were overseeing the hotspots and they were searching. We always look in these buildings because during the winter time, people are seeking shelter, we always go look for homeless, vagrants that may be in there. And that's what the companies were doing when the roof let loose," said Chicago Fire Cmsr. Robert Hoff.
Some firefighters on the scene complained of frozen fire hydrants nearby.
"No matter how well you're prepared, no matter how much experience you have, a morning like this is just something that takes you by surprise," said Tom Ryan, the president of Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, at an afternoon press conference.
Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary one of the most destructive fire in Chicago history which broke out at the Union Stockyards in 1910. Twenty-one firefighters died instantly in that tragic fire.
"This is so sad," said Bill Cosgrove, who organized and was holding a memorial service for the stockyards fire when a mayday call come over the radio. "The irony of the entire thing that both of them were killed with fallen brick walls."
"It was beyond disbelief. It was a matter of a few hours and 100 years later we have the same type of incident," he said.
It is also eerily similar to the Feb. 14, 1962 fire and collapse that killed Hoff's own father, who was a battalion chief at the time, according to the Chicago Tribune.