Compiled by Ellen O'Brien and Lyle Benedict, Reference Librarians in CPL's Municipal Reference Collection
1976, January 30: Wincrest Nursing Home Fire
The building was modern, well built and well operated. It had received no major health code violations and no violations from either the Building or Fire Departments. (The fire was ultimately determined to be incendiary in origin and a 21 year-old temporary housekeeper was eventually charged with multiple counts of murder by arson.)
The investigation showed no evidence of panic during the fire. Evacuation time was lost when nursing home personnel first attempted to put out the blaze on their own. In the heavy black smoke patients were unable to escape from the fire floor on their own and moving wheel chair patients down available stairs proved difficult. Consequently, the casualty rate was high.
In the aftermath of the fire, one of the
worst of its kind in Chicago, a special panel was convened to investigate
the fire. It recommended a number of changes to be enacted by the Board
of Health and to the Building and Fire Codes. The recommendations required
sprinkler systems to be installed in all new and existing nursing homes
and for water flow alarms on the sprinkler system to be electrically interconnected
with the fire alarm system.