When fire ravaged a two-story building on the West Side in early January, the Chicago Fire Department reported no injuries from the blaze.
But, three months later, the body of a 57-year-old man was recovered from the rubble, prompting an internal review by the fire department into how the body was able to sit there for so long.
The fire in the 1100 block of South Francisco in North Lawndale started on the back porch of the building on Jan. 9 and was extinguished less than an hour later. But the body of Curtis Green wasn’t discovered until about 3 a.m. on April 8, the fire department and the Cook County medical examiner’s office said this week.
Authorities declined to comment on how the body was found. ABC7 Chicago reported that a man scavenging for wire inside the building discovered the body
“When he was digging the debris up, that’s when my father’s arm fell on him,” said Tonisha Bryant, a daughter of Green. “I was hurt, I was extremely heartbroken. You tell us you can’t get your hands dirty ’cause there’s too much debris. And here it is, somebody else looking for a scrap, they can find a body, but you couldn’t take out the time to look for a body?”
Green had been reported missing to Chicago Police. He had been dropped off at a church at 2836 W. Roosevelt on Jan. 8, the day before the fire, and he was never seen again, police said.
Green — whose home address was listed as being in south suburban Riverdale — died of heroin toxicity, with “inhalation of products of combustion due to a porch fire” listed as a contributing factor, according to an autopsy conducted by the medical examiner’s office. His death was ruled an accident.
“Despite multiple searches by both the fire department and the police department, along with a cadaver canine, CFD now believes they missed Mr. Green,” Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said in a statement Wednesday.
“Mr. Green was found in a room that was not the origin or initial spread of the fire, and there was about two feet of clothing and debris above the body.”
Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago ordered the internal review after the discovery, Langford said.
Each fire company involved was interviewed; the scenario was reviewed, and training occurred to minimize the chances of this happening again by ensuring “all searches are as exhaustive as possible,” Langford said.
“The social position of any person needing help from the Fire Department has no bearing on the vigor employed in a search,” Langford said. “CFD works hard to prevent fire deaths and we try to work just as hard to get to victims of fire.
“Tragically we were not successful this time. The crews who worked that fire and the department as a whole are saddened by the loss.”