Fatal Chicago High Rise Fire Prompts Early Court Action

The estate of a man killed in a high rise fire in Chicago last Tuesday, has filed a petition in Cook County Circuit Court to obtain access to 911 tapes and fire reports. The three alarm fire occurred in a 16 story building at 6730 South Shore Drive.

John Fasula, 50, a Chicago Transit Authority employee who worked part time in the building, died heroically in the blaze. He and a second employee, Jameel Johnson, rescued an elderly woman and were reportedly either firefighting the fire with extinguishers or searching for other victims when they were overcome. Johnson died as well.

The petition was filed by on Thursday by Patricia Fasula, the administrator of John’s estate. Besides records from the fire department, the petition also reportedly seeks records from the building’s owners and the police department

Here is more on the fire.

Here is more on the petition.

If there are any Illinois attorneys out there who can explain why it was necessary to file a petition in court 2 days after a fire in order to obtain the 911 and fire department records (that would appear to be public records anyway) please clue the rest of us in. Generally the only time petitions like this are used is when there is a concern that relevant evidence from the scene may be lost, discarded, or not preserved. Perhaps the news reports have the details about the petition wrong or perhaps there is something in Illinois law or practice that explains the reason for the petition.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
  • ukfbbuff

    So the two victims went in and searched for people who may have been trapped.

    Subsequentally, they died of “Cardiac Arrest” from smoke toxicity.

    So what are the relatives trying to find out or prove?

    It’s readily apparent the two individuals Were Not Trained in firefighting nor were they properly equipped to do such a thing in a “Hasty Manner”.

    So, while its commendable that these two did a “Heroic Thing” how does that involve the Chicago FD, in some type of “Malpractice”?

    My condolences to both families.

  • Briggitte

    They were already in the building, thankful for their decision to assist thus preventing more casualties.
    I am grateful to the Fasula family for seeking answers to the unanswered.
    Unless you were affected, please do not pass judgement.
    Embracing the Fasula and Johnson family in Gods loving embrace

  • Bill D

    From my own experience here in MD with building management and their fire emergency plans, I suspect that part of that plan involved directing untrained staff, as part of their job responsibilities (read we will fire you if you do not do this) into harms way to rescue residents as well as attempt to put out the fire. An issue when they are not trained and not provided appropriate PPE. Purely speculative but may be behind potential law suit vs management with CFD added in if CFD approved the fire emergency and evacuation plan.

  • There are plenty of reasons for the victim’s families to sue.

    My question is why – WITHOUT FILING SUIT OR ALLEGING WRONGDOING – would the families go to court to seek a court order to obtain incident related information (information that is a public record and must be preserved anyway)?

    We are talking about an extraordinary petition to the court that is filed before the victims are even buried.

    Now… having said that… I have seen these kinds of petitions before. They usually occur in mass-tort situations where many people are killed and injured and there is evidence that needs to be preserved.

    I suppose my concern is – are we seeing a new trend among attorneys to file these kinds of “evidence preservation” actions? And are fire departments prepared for them?


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