ABC7 Team Coverage
CHICAGO — Two firefighters were killed when they became trapped under a partially collapsed building at a South Side fire Wednesday morning.
The fatalities are identified as Firefighters Edward Stringer and Cory Ankum. The two were helping sweep a vacant building after a 3-11 fire when the roof and a wall collapsed.
Stringer and Ankum — and two other firefighters — became trapped under the debris. A "mayday" was called and hundreds of firefighters were sent to the scene in the rescue. More than a dozen others were injured, but they all are expected to be OK.
Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff said the responding firefighters "did the best they could to save their brothers."
Stringer, of Engine 63, was a 12-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department. Ankum, of Tower Ladder 34, had been with the department for just 18 months. Before that, he was a police officer.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said in a statement, "The deaths of Firefighters Stringer and Ankum are both a sad reminder of how much gratitude we owe our first responders and a tragedy for all Chicagoans."
The mayor, who is in New York on business, personally knows Ankum and his family and writes, "I share in their loss."
Chicago fire union chief Tom Ryan said "no matter how much experience you have on the job, a morning like this still takes you by surprise."
2 dead, 19 injured at 3-11 blaze
In all, 19 firefighters were injured. Four firefighters were trapped when the wall collapsed and 15 others were hurt during the rescue.
The four trapped firefighters were transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn in serious to critical conditions. The fatalities were pronounced at Northwestern and Christ hospitals.
Two other firefighters were also transported in serious to critical condition from the scene. One person- a lieutenant- remains in stable condition, but both are expected to be OK.
The others were not seriously hurt, according to the Chicago Fire Department, and have been treated for minor injuries.
Officials said as many as six firefighters were going over hot spots after a 3-11 fire and searching the vacant building on East 75th Street near Stony Island for homeless people when part of the building gave way and the roof came down.
"They went up on the ladder, ladder went on down. Next thing you know, they must (have) got onto the top part of the roof, and the roof just caved in," witness Kimberly Lofton said.
"They were below. They were inside the structure," Chicago Fire Commissioner Robert Hoff said. "The search effort was aggressive."
A "mayday" was called in and a response team, the Rapid Intervention Team (RIT), was sent. More than 60 Chicago Fire Department companies responded.
"The RIT company went to work right away. They removed, I couldn't tell you each and every spot, but firefighters were removed from different corners of the building, and they worked hard and they got them out fast," Commissioner Hoff said.
All firefighters were accounted for at 8:50 a.m., but crews continued to search the rubble to make sure no homeless people were inside the building at the time of the fire or collapse.
"People in this weather take refuge," said Commissioner Hoff. "We treat no building as vacant."
The cause of the fire and the collapse remain under investigation.
"Maybe it was the ice or the snow? Maybe it was the age of the building? There's things that happen when buildings are aged," said Commissioner Hoff.
The building at 1744 E 75th Street was once occupied by Banner Dry Cleaner, but it's not clear how long it has been vacant.
STATEMENT OF MAYOR RICHARD M. DALEY ON THE DEATHS OF FIREFIGHTERS EDWARD STRINGER AND CORY ANKUM
On behalf of all the residents of Chicago, I extend my condolences to the families of Firefighters Edward Stringer and Cory Ankum, who died today in the line of duty. I knew Cory Ankum and his family and I share in their loss today.
Our prayers go out to the families of these two firefighters and to their brothers and sisters in the Chicago Fire Department, who put their lives in danger every day to keep Chicagoans safe.
And our thoughts and prayers are with the other brave firefighters who remain hospitalized as a result of today's fire.
The deaths of Firefighters Stringer and Ankum are both a sad reminder of how much gratitude we owe our first responders and a tragedy for all Chicagoans.
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Republished with permission from WLS-TV.