A Chicago firefighter died Monday morning after battling a one-alarm fire in Lincoln Park, falling four stories into a skylight after helping to warn students living in a burning building to evacuate.
“He’s risking his life to save me, he shouldn’t have done that, since that’s his job, he didn’t have to do what he did,” said Sean Graney, a student at Northwestern University who lives. in the building.
“It’s very sad for me to know that someone died saving my life, saving all these other people’s lives.”
Firefighter Andrew “Drew” Price was on the roof of a four-story building in the 2400 block of North Lincoln Avenue opening vents when he fell into the skylight, landing on the ground floor, according to officials. The building has the Lincoln Station restaurant on its first floor and apartments on the ground floor.
Price, 39, was taken to Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where he died of “brutal injuries,” Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said as she stood next to doctors in her emergency room Monday morning.
Nance-Holt said she knew Price from working with him.
“We all knew Drew,” said the fire commissioner. “Drew worked. Drew was a health nut. (He was loved) by many. He will be missed by all.”
‘Visibility can be a problem’
Fire officials were still talking to other firefighters at the scene to get a better idea of what happened Monday, but department spokesman Larry Langford said it appears Price fell while fighting the blaze.
“He didn’t see where his foot was, and visibility may have been an issue here, but everything points to the fact that the accident was due to blindness,” Langford said.
When crews first saw Price in the building, he was trapped but responsive, according to his crew chief. Firefighters had to drill a hole in the wall to get him out.
About 150 firefighters were at the scene. No one else was injured. Langford said the alarm went in just before 6 a.m., and the fire is believed to have started in the kitchen, although it was not immediately clear which one. The Bureau of Fire Investigation is still investigating, but Langford said foul play is not suspected. It was too early to know how or why the fire started.
‘She was very sweet’
Price joined the department in 2009 and has been assigned to Engine 55 and Truck 44 for the past ten years.
“He was a lovely man,” said his chief of staff, Michael McCormack. “He was very sweet. He took very good care of himself and his family. He was perfectly healthy. He was sunshine.”
Langford said he didn’t know Price personally, but he was known as a “funny guy” who was a “caring, hard-working guy.”
“He has done a lot of good at the higher education institution, in terms of teachers. Being a teacher at this institution goes above and beyond,” said Langford.
Price is the fourth member of the Chicago Fire Department to die in the line of duty this year.
“We all love what we do, and we all know that when we go to work it may be the last time. “We all see that, but I think having all the members behind me, our officers, members of the fire department and myself, the hug we share, we work through our grief,” said Nance-Holt.
About 100 Chicago police and firefighters gathered at the Cook County medical examiner’s office Monday afternoon to say their last goodbyes to Price.
In a statement, Mayor Brandon Johnson expressed his sadness.
“All of our hearts are heavy this morning as we mourn the passing of firefighter Andrew Price, who was on duty fighting a fire in Lincoln Park,” the statement said. “Andrew gave his life for the City of Chicago, taking his position on the front line that threatens our safety and the public. He did everything in his power to protect those in danger—a debt we will never be able to repay.”
‘There’s a fire, fire, get out!’
The building houses about 30 people, most of whom are DePaul University students, said Graney, a Northwestern University student who lives there.
Residents reported waking up around 05:40 in the morning to black smoke in the corridors.
“All of a sudden I woke up knocking on my door and the power was out, it was pitch black,” said Graney.
He jumped out of bed and briefly saw someone in a white shirt at his door before Graney, who lives upstairs, and the others started to come downstairs.
“I opened the door and it was full of smoke. … The hallway is full of smoke,” Graney said.
He knew that there were two ways in and out – one led to the back cave and the other to the front.
“In the beginning, we were trying to go through the back cave, not knowing where the fire was, what was happening, we couldn’t breathe, we couldn’t see anything,” said Graney.
“I didn’t really know what to do, but I just went the other way,” Graney said. “We ran the other way, we went down to the first floor, we saw the fireman, I think he was on the third floor, he was like: “There is a fire, fire, get out! Come on! Come on!”‘
Maddie Carter, a DePaul student, said she started breaking down all the doors on her floor when she realized what was happening.
“I woke up because I heard a noise in the cave at the back, I smelled smoke, I looked and saw black smoke coming into the house, I woke up my roommate and slammed the doors upstairs. down,” said Carter.
Building owner cited for 16 alleged violations in 2017
Lucy Egan, a DePaul student, said she and other residents have had many maintenance problems while living there, with some taking more than a year to fix.
County records show the building is owned by Joseph L. Grossman, who could not be reached for comment.
The city has sued the owner of the building at 2430 N. Lincoln Ave three times since 2011.
A 2018 lawsuit against the owner for multiple violations was dismissed at a preliminary hearing when the building was found to be in full compliance, according to the city’s Law Department.
The department did not immediately release details about the other cases.
The residence has failed inspections at least twice since 2006, according to Department of Buildings records. In the last failed inspection, in 2019, the owner was identified as an unauthorized operator on its sign that read “Lincoln Station Bar Grill.”
In 2017, the owner was cited for 16 alleged violations, including not maintaining a cracked or damaged wall, washing mud and loose stones from the roof, keeping the chimney in an unsafe condition and rusted windows.
On Oct. 31, the first-floor dining area passed an inspection by the Chicago Fire Department, which handles commercial inspections, Langford said.
At about 2:30 p.m. Monday, Benn Hamm, the owner of the bar and building, was watching for residents re-entering the building to retrieve their valuables.
Hamm told them that the building has no water, power, electricity or gas, and is unoccupied. They were told that they would be able to come back later in the week to pack some of their things, but they would not be able to re-enter. Residents reported that the floor was covered in soot, and the building still smelled bad. , although some apartments appeared to be undamaged.
In a statement, DePaul said it was helping 25 Northwestern students with food and lodging at the university’s Ray Meyer Fitness Center. The American Red Cross was also helping the students with their medical and clothing needs.