Monday, March 14, 2016

March 14, 1981 -- Royal Beach Hotel Fire

March 14, 1981-- 19 people died and 14 others, including two policemen, are injured in an extra-alarm fire at the Royal Beach Hotel at 5523 North Kenmore Avenue in the city's Edgewater neighborhood. Inoperable smoke detectors and doors that were not rated as fireproof led to the large loss of life in a fire that apparently began in the building's laundry room which also doubled as a storeroom and spread rapidly from that location up an rear stairway, trapping victims in their rooms. The fire began at some time before 3:00 a.m., and when electricity failed residents, many of whom were patients in local drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs, were left to find a way out through thick black smoke. The search for bodies began after the fire was struck at about 5:30 a.m. Said one firefighter, "Every time I opened a door, I found another body. We were to be relieved at 8 a.m., but at 7:30 I had to get out of there. I couldn't stand it anymore." [Chicago Tribune, March 15, 1981]

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