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First Arriving Network

Chicago High Rise Office Fire With No Standpipes

Notable Old Post Office Building

CBS News

A FIRE BROKE OUT ON THE  ROOF OF A CHICAGO, Illinois, high-rise building during the Friday evening  rush hour.  The 6:30 pm fire was in what is known as the Old Post Office building and it was soon upgraded to an  extra alarm for additional manpower and tower-ladders.

Sun-Times photo

When the firefighters went up the stairs to the roof to check it out, they were met with some fire on the 10th floor.  They tried to knock them down with portable extinguishers, but they weren't enough.  For unknown reasons, the  standpipes were not in service and they had to call for the tower-ladders to hoist hose lines up to the  fire floors.

Sun-Times photo

Fox News has this video report from the scene:


Fire Burning on Top of Chicago's Old Main Post Office:

The cause of the fire was laid to a faulty ventilation fan, one of 11 extremely large such fans that ventilate the building and adjoining passenger train platforms.  The Chicago Tribune reports:

Investigators were looking at whether a faulty ventilation blower in an exhaust tower ignited flammable materials nearby on the roof, Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said. A fire official on the scene Friday told WGN-TV that a building manager said the equipment involved was new and was recently installed by ventilation workers, who are currently the only crews working on the post office.

The project manager for British company that owns the post office, International Property Developers, said in an email this morning that a fire official told company staff that "the fire was caused by trains idling for prolonged periods under the Old Post Office.

"These old trains are very inefficient and discharge large amounts of very hot noxious gasses," said Martin Mulryan, project manager for IPD. "Embers from the exhaust have been drawn into the extract system and have ignited setting the equipment alight at roof level."

The parties will have to wait for the real investigation before they found out who is right.

The Post Office vacated the building in 1997 for a new facility and it has been vacant since then, but recently purchased by a developer.

Chicagoland Fire/Emergency Radio has posted the interesting radio traffic for this unique and challenging operation.
Part One is HERE.
Part Two is HERE.
Thanks to Radioman911.. has some background history for the famous building:

The nine (sic) story high post office was built from 1922 to 1933, and it was once the largest post office in the world. It was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, the largest architectural firm under one roof during the first half of the 20th century. The firm was originally founded by famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham's sons and business partner, who designed such iconic buildings as the Wrigley Building, the Merchandise Mart, the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum.

The post office was vacated in the 1990s when the new post office across Harrison Street opened. It costs the government around $2 million to maintain the building, but they're stuck doing it because in 2001 it was listed under the National Register of Historic Places

Recently, as many of us know, the post office was used for filming the Batman Begins and The Dark Knight movies. During filming the post office caught fire, and the cause was initially blamed on the movie crew. However, it was later determined that the fire was caused by the insulation in the ancient ventilation system.

IPD bought the old post office in 2009 for $24.8 million and announced this past summer that it plans to spend $3.5 billion to transform it into an "urban mecca." This plan will create 16 million square feet of entertainment, retail, office, residential and hotel space. IPD wants to extend this vision into three other sites around the post office, but right now the company only has financing for the first phase of the project.

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