Gold Coast high-rise fire ruled an accident; 2 firefighters’ cause of death revealed

Officials say a high-rise fire on North Lake Shore Drive was caused by combustibles too close to a ‘heat-generating appliance.’ Firefighter Jermaine Pelt died of smoke inhalation; Lt. Jan Tchoryk died of cardiovascular disease.

Smoke billows from a building that is on fire as water shoots out a balcony door in the 1200 block of North DuSable Lake Shore Drive in the Gold Coast neighborhood, Wednesday, April 5, 2023.

Fire investigators determined the fire on the 27th floor of a Gold Coast high-rise was an accident.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

The Gold Coast high-rise blaze that left a Chicago Fire Department lieutenant dead was started by combustibles too close to a “heat-generating appliance,” officials said.

The Office of Fire Investigation ruled the Wednesday morning fire in the 1200 block of North Lake Shore Drive accidental. Fire officials did not provide any additional details on the type of appliance that started the blaze.

The fire was contained to one unit in the building, but elevators were not working and firefighters had to climb 26 flights of stairs to get to a staging area where crews were being rotated to fight the blaze.

Lt. Jan Tchoryk collapsed in an 11th-floor stairwell while making his way to the fire, according to officials. He was taken to the hospital in “very critical” condition and later succumbed to his injuries. He was a member of the department for 26 years.

An autopsy determined he died of hypertensive-arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Three other firefighters and two civilians were also injured. The firefighters were listed in fair to serious condition, and the civilians were reported to be in good condition.

Chicago firefighters stand at ease on Wednesday after a procession outside of the medical examiner’s office at 2121 W Harrison St, Lt. Jan Tchoryk died responding to a high-rise fire in the Gold Coast neighborhood.

Chicago firefighters stand at ease on Wednesday after a procession outside the Cook County medical examiner’s office on Harrison Street. Lt. Jan Tchoryk died responding to a high-rise fire in the Gold Coast neighborhood.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times file

Tuesday morning, firefighter Jermaine Pelt, 49, died while responding to a house fire in the 12000 block of South Wallace Avenue.

“It is unprecedented to lose two firefighters in back-to-back days, in different circumstances, but each of them responding to a call to serve and responding to the aid of others,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a news conference on Wednesday.

Pelt, a 17-year veteran of the department, became separated from fellow firefighters after they were ordered to evacuate a West Pullman home that was going up in flames.

Crews went back inside and quickly found Pelt, who was rushed to Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn where he was pronounced dead.

An autopsy released Wednesday determined he died of carbon monoxide toxicity from inhalation of smoke and soot, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Officials have not yet determined the cause of the West Pullman fire.


Firefighter Jermaine Pelt and Lt. Jan Tchoryk.

Chicago Fire Department

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