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Two Dead, One Severely Injured in South Shore High-Rise Fire

By  Geoff Ziezulewicz and Emily Morris | January 22, 2013 9:15am | Updated on January 22, 2013 3:21pm

SOUTH SHORE — Two men died and a woman was critically injured in a high-rise fire that brought scores of firefighters to battle the blaze on a freezing Tuesday morning, authorities said.

The fire started about 8:40 a.m. on the seventh floor of the building in the 6700 block of South Shore Drive, the Chicago Fire Department's media office said.

Three victims appeared to go into cardiac arrest after suffering smoke inhalation, said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford. Two of the victims, both men, were found on the seventh floor, the fire department said.

One of the men was taken to Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center and pronounced dead at 9:45 a.m, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. He was later identified as John Fasula, 50, of the 3800 block of South Lowe Avenue in Bridgeport, according to the medical examiner's office.

Another male victim was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center and pronounced dead at 9:54 a.m., the medical examiner's office said. He was later identified as Jameel Johnson, in his 30s, of the 2300 block of West Jackson Boulevard in the Near West Side.

The third victim, a woman, was found in the lobby and resuscitated by rescue crews. She was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center in critical condition, Langford said.

Smoke was seen billowing from the 16-story building as firefighters battled the blaze, which extended to the eighth floor, officials said.

The fire was elevated to a 3-11 alarm by 9:13 a.m., bringing more firefighters and ambulances to the scene, authorities said.

Officials said a warming bus was provided for those who wanted to leave the building, though Langford said an evacuation was not ordered.  He said it was safer for building residents in unaffected areas to stay in their apartments.

Firefighters eventually visited every apartment in the building and completed multiple stairwell checks, Langford said.

Resident Jay Fizer, who lives on the 10th floor, said he was sleeping when he heard smoke alarms that woke him up.

"Next thing I know, I open the door and heard panicking," Fizer, 40, said.

He and a friend grabbed their things and bolted down the stairs, he said. They could smell smoke, but once they got down a few floors, "it smacked us in the face," Fizer said, referring to the smoke.

Fizer said he and the other residents were told they'd know in a few hours if and when they would be able to get back into their homes. Some waited in the lobby of the building while American Red Cross workers handed out snacks and coffee. 

Though the air was frigid and frozen puddles could be seen surrounding nearby fire hydrants, firefighters had no issues putting out the flames, Fire Department spokeswoman Meg Ahlheim said.

About 190 firefighters and paramedics responded to the blaze, said Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas. The cause of the fire is under investigation, he said.

The flames were extinguished sometime before 10 a.m., officials said.

"They were able to knock down the fire rather quickly," McNicholas said.