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2 killed in high-rise fire in South Shore

Firefighters are responding extra-alarm fire high-rise building South Shore neighborhood. The fire is high-rise building 6730 S. South Shore Drive

Firefighters are responding to a extra-alarm fire in a high-rise building in the South Shore neighborhood. The fire is at a high-rise building at 6730 S. South Shore Drive, Fire Media Affairs said. The blaze has been upgraded to a 3-11 alarm and an EMS Plan 2, which sends at least 10 ambulances to the scene, Fire Media Affairs said. | Courtesy ABC7

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Updated: February 24, 2013 6:17AM

Two men died Tuesday in a three-alarm fire at a 16-story high-rise in the South Shore neighborhood, including one from a well known Bridgeport family.

Bridgetport native John Fasula, 50, of the 3800 block of South Lowe, and Jameel Johnson, in his 30s, were found unconscious outside unit 701, where the fire began at the building 6730 S. South Shore Drive, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

Johnson, who was working in the building, and Fasula went to assist a woman in her 70s who owned a unit in the building, authorities said. Both men suffered from smoke inhalation. One of the men was declared dead at University of Chicago Hospitals and one at Jackson Park Hospital.

Cook County Commissioner John Daley, a friend of Fasula, called him an “outstanding” man on Wednesday.

“Always active, always involved in the community. He loved his family. He was the rock of the family,” Daley said.

“You know what? There’s not going to be another like him ever again in this lifetime,” his sister-in-law Michelle Kozicki said.

On Tuesday morning, arriving firefighters saw the elderly woman collapse through the doors of a lobby elevator. The woman was in cardiac arrest but was revived after receiving CPR and taken in critical condition to University of Chicago Medical Center.

A firefighter also was injured and taken in good condition to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Firefighters were called to the scene at 8:41 a.m. and by 9:53 a.m., the fire was under control. It was contained to mostly one apartment unit , according to Chicago Fire Department spokeswoman Meg Ahlheim.

Firefighters used one of the building’s stairwells to attack the fire, she said, while evacuating residents out of another. Some residents, though, were told it would be safer for them to stay in their homes. The building had no sprinkler system. It also lacked a communication system. Fire officials went on live television to tell residents to stay put.

Bridgitti Knox’s first thought when she heard the fire alarm bells was to flee her 16th floor unit. She headed for a stairwell — only to find it smokier and smokier as she made her way down.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it out from the smoke,” Knox, 55, said.

But she made it to the first-floor lobby without injury.

“I walked 16 flights. It was very scary. There was a lot of smoke in the stairway,” said Knox, who covered her mouth with her hand on the way down. The smoke was thickest on the seventh, eighth and ninth floors, she said.

On the ninth floor, she heard a voice calling up from below.

“‘Is anyone up there?!’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and then he came up, took my hand and pulled me the rest of the way down,” Knox said.

During the fire, other residents could be seen on their balconies, wrapped in winter coats and scarves. Some could later be seen escorted away by firefighters. A warming bus idled nearby for displaced residents.

While no cause for the fire had been determined, Langford said, “We think it may be electrical.”

Contributing: Allison Horton

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