In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, many city and suburban fireworks shows were canceled, so do-it-yourself fireworks displays took over backyards last summer.
Those home shows had the Chicago Fire Department on alert, with crews placed throughout the city to keep watch. One of the locations where a truck was parked was on the corner of North and Central Park Avenues in Humboldt Park, where Truck 36 was parked just before midnight on July 5, 2020.
The truck’s bright red lights caught the attention of NBC 5 viewer Ann, whose last name we are not including for privacy concerns.
“Being a little curious I started to look outside, and that's when I saw my car” she told NBC 5 Responds.
Her car, which was parked on that same corner, appeared to be significantly damaged. Ann went to look for herself and discovered the hood of her 1999 Acura had been smashed in, and that the firefighters were standing nearby.
“I asked if they had (seen) anything, if they had any idea, and at that point they, they told us no. That they were just sent there to patrol for fireworks” says Ann, who then went on to thank them for their service.
With a major repair bill looming, the next day Ann searched for surveillance video that may have captured the incident that left her car damaged. Luckily for her, the beauty salon on the first floor of her building, had a camera, pointed right in the direction of her car.
What she saw next left her in disbelief.
The video appeared to show Truck 36 backing right into the front of her car. She watched as her car rocked back and forth, with the firefighters exiting the truck to look at the damage, then getting back inside and pulling Truck 36 forward.
“I literally was like ‘oh my God I thanked them for all they do for our community, and they lied to me,’” Ann says.
Two weeks later, Ann filed a damage claim with the city, and she included the two repair estimates required. One of the bills was for $2,085.63, the other for $1,706.19.
But the payments didn’t arrive, and as the months ticked by, Ann’s frustrations and limitations grew. The smashed hood meant she did not have air conditioning, could not open her hood to service her vehicle, or drive at high speeds on the highway.
“They've (mechanics) told me that they can't guarantee the latch and my hood is good enough to withstand that kind of speed,” she says.
In addition, the clock was ticking down to the one year statute of limitations that was made clear in a letter from the City Claims Department which read, in part, “in the event, prior to that date, you fail to resolve or pursue further legal recourse, your ability to do so will be forever lost”.
Seeking help, Ann turned to NBC 5 Responds.
For its part, the city of Chicago confirmed Truck 36 damaged her car, but denied any undue delay in processing Ann’s claim.
“Each year, the Law Department's City Claims Unit receives more than 1,000 claims, which are typically processed within six months,” a law department spokesperson told NBC 5 Responds. “The claims investigation process includes gathering and reviewing information related to the claim. Some claims take longer to evaluate and resolve depending on their complexity and the accessibility of requested information on the claim. In this instance, the investigation took slightly longer than average but is within an acceptable time frame.”
Last month, the city sent its own appraiser to look at Ann’s car. He deemed the car a total loss, then offered Ann two choices; $1,596 to sell her title to salvage buyer or $1,515 to retain the vehicle. Both offers were approximately $200 less than her lowest repair estimate.
“I did nothing wrong, and I've done everything to help them finish this investigation and still no, no, help,” Ann says.
As for the Chicago Fire Department’s response? We shared the surveillance with their spokesman, in return he offered NBC 5 Responds this statement:
“The video speaks for itself. Members were found to have violated Fire Department rules, regulations, and policies concerning operation of fire vehicles, reporting damage to civilian property, and improper interaction with a member of the public. The most senior supervisor in this matter has since retired. The other department member found to have violated regulations will be given discipline appropriate to their violations”.
CFD says it will also offer Ann an in-person apology.