CHICAGO (AP) — A blaze at an abandoned building on Chicago's South Side left two firefighters dead and 14 injured Wednesday, the 100th anniversary of a grim milestone in U.S. firefighting history.
The men who died were among four firefighters buried in debris when the South Side building's roof and one wall collapsed.
The injured included firefighters who rushed in to rescue their trapped colleagues, said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.
Four of those hurt suffered critical injuries but all 14 are expected to survive, Langford said.
Wednesday was the 100th anniversary of the Union Stock Yards fire, which killed 21 Chicago firefighters. That tragedy stood as the nation's worst for firefighter deaths until 9/11.
The department was still reeling from another loss, a firefighter killed battling a restaurant fire earlier this year, when the South Side blaze broke out.
"This is a family and it's very hard," Langford said. "You had guys who were coming in off duty to help dig. Everybody wanted to help find people. It's very hard on folks."
The one-story brick commercial building had been abandoned for several years and utilities had long been cut off. Langford said the fire's cause was uncertain but that it was possible that squatters had been living in the building and been burning debris inside to keep warm.
"The fire had no other way of starting," he said.