A Chicago firefighter died Monday morning after battling an extra-alarm fire at a Lincoln Park building, according to fire officials.
Firefighter Andrew “Drew” Price was on the roof of a four-story building in the 2400 block of North Lincoln Avenue opening holes for ventilation when he fell through a light shaft, Fire Commissioner Annette Nance-Holt said at a press conference outside Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital.
Price, 39, was taken to Illinois Masonic where he died of his “significant injuries”, Nance-Holt said standing beside his emergency room doctors.
“We all knew Drew,” Nance-Holt said. “Drew worked out. Drew was a health nut. (He was) loved by so many, he will be missed by all.”
Price joined the department in 2009 and worked on Engine 55 for the past decade.
When crews first spotted Price inside the building, he was responsive, according to his battalion chief. Firefighters had to force a hole in a wall to bring him out.
About 150 firefighters were on the scene. No one else has been injured. Department spokesman Larry Langford said it was too early to know how or why the fire started.
“He was a lovely man,” his battalion chief said. “He was as sweet as can be. He took extremely good care of himself and his family. He was extremely healthy. “He was a light of sunshine.”
Nance-Holt said she knew Price personally from working out together.
Price is the fourth Chicago Fire Department member to die in the line of duty this year.
“We all love what we do and we all know when we go to work it may be our last, we all realize that but I think having all the members behind me, our command staff, the members of the fire department with me, the hugs we share with each other, we work through our grief,” Nance-Holt said.
In a statement, Mayor Brandon Johnson expressed his condolences.
“Our collective hearts are heavy this morning as we mourn the passing of firefighter Andrew Price, who has fallen in the line of duty battling a fire in Lincoln Park,” the statement said. “Andrew gave his life in service to the City of Chicago, taking his position at the front lines of a threat to our safety and community. He made the ultimate sacrifice to protect those in harm’s way — a debt we can never repay.”
At midday, displaced residents spoke to reporters. The building is home to about 30 people, most of whom are DePaul University students, said Sean Graney, a Northwestern University master’s student who lives there.
Residents reported waking up about 5:40 a.m. to black smoke filling the hallways.
“I abruptly wake up to banging on my door and the power’s completely off, it’s pitch black,” Graney said.
He jumped out of bed and briefly spotted someone wearing a white shirt at his door before Graney, who lives on the top floor, and others began making their way down stairs.
“I opened the door and it was just full of smoke. … The hallway’s full of smoke,” Graney said.
He knew there two ways in and out — one leads to a back alley and the other to the front.
“At first, we were trying to go through the back alley, not knowing where the fire was, what was going on, and we could not breathe, we couldn’t see, anything,” Graney said.
“I didn’t really know what to do, but I just went the other way,” Graney said. “We sprinted the other way, we get down the first level, we see a firefighter I think that’s the third floor, he’s like: “There’s a fire fire, get out! Come on! come on!”’
Maddie Carter, a DePaul student, said she started pounding on all the doors on her floor when she realized what was happening.
“I woke up because I heard some noise in the back alley and I could smell smoke, and I looked and I could see black smoke coming into the apartment and so I woke up my roommate and I pounded on the doors on the top floor,” Carter said.
By early afternoon, they weren’t sure when or if they’d be let back into their apartments. Graney said he hopes to return in the next few days. Other residents said if they could get out of their leases, they wouldn’t go back.
Lucy Egan, a DePaul student, said she and other residents have had a number of maintenance issues while living there, with some taking more than a year to be fixed.
Graney said his emotions have been all over the place, but what hit hardest was the firefighter’s death.
“He’s risking his life to save me, he doesn’t have to do that, as much as that is his job, he still didn’t have to do what he did,” he said. “It’s just really sad for me to know that someone passed away saving my life, saving all of these other people’s lives.”
County records show the building is owned by Joseph L. Grossman, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
The city has sued the building owner of 2430 N. Lincoln Ave. three times since 2011. The city’s law department did not immediately share details about the litigation.
The residential property failed at least two inspections since 2006, according to Department of Buildings records. In the last failed inspection, in 2019, the owner was cited for un-permitted work on its sign reading “Lincoln Station Bar Grill.”
In 2017, the owner was cited for 16 alleged violations that included not maintaining the parapet wall from cracks or defects, having washed out mortar and shifting stones on the roof, keeping the chimney in an unsafe working condition, and having rusted window lintels.
Dorothy Hernandez contributed to this report.