High Rise Fire Kills One, Injures 12

Father and daughter rescued from roof

By Andrew Greiner
|  Thursday, Dec 10, 2009  |  Updated 2:07 PM CDT
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1 person died in the blaze.

1 person died in the blaze.

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Fire Commissioner Discusses Fatality

Commissioner John W. Brooks talks about the woman who died in the blaze.
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Fire raged through a Streeterville high rise overnight, killing one person and injuring 12 others – including five firefighters – and prompting more than 200 residents to flee the building into the frigid Chicago night.

The blaze broke out on the 36th floor of 260 E. Chestnut, a 51-story building, at about 1 a.m.

Better than 300 Chicago firefighters were called to the scene. Nearly two thirds of the city’s force.

Fire investigators believe the fire started in the apartment of  84-year-old Beata Bihl, who called 911. Officials say she tried to escape her smoke-filled apartment, but died in the fire. Bihl apparently tried to escape the apartment. Her badly burned body was found near the front door.

Fire Commissioner John W. Brooks said even if she had made it out of the apartment, she likely wouldn't have fared better.  Brooks, however, did not identify her.

"We had smoke in the hallways already, so she probably wouldn't have had a good chance," Brooks said.

The blaze forced one man and his 6-year-old daughter to head for the roof to await rescue.

"It was pretty scary," Jeff Amsel, who was eventually rode the building’s freight elevator down to safety told the Chicago Tribune. "We were the only ones up there. It reminded me of 9/11."

"The smoke was billowing up from the fire and the wind was blowing it back onto us. The smoke was stinging our eyes. It was really scary. I called 911 to let them know we were on the roof and they said they would get us." 

Among the injured were a 50-year-old man who was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and a 105-year-old woman.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
 

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