City moves to demolish building where firefighter fell to his death

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Chicago’s Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago returned Tuesday to the building where Dan Capuano, his comrade, died.

According to building inspectors who took pictures, Santiago now confirms he saw an open, unprotected elevator shaft, staircases without handrails, and structural work without city permits.

“I take a look and form an opinion in my head on what I see here, because we're going to have people do things without us knowing,” Santiago said.

Investigators believe Capuano died because smoke blinded him as he stepped into the elevator shaft, and then he fell to his death.

Late Tuesday, the building department filed an emergency motion to demolish the building, calling it "an immediate and continuous threat" to the community.

It's owned by pharmacist Jay Patel, who also owns the pharmacy next door.

Alderman Susan Garza of the 10th Ward says Patel was converting the warehouse to a grocery store and has been a great asset to the community. His attorney, Patrick Cummings, told FOX 32 that Patel is quote, "absolutely devastated and his thoughts are with the Capuano family."

He says Patel is cooperating closely with the investigation.

Investigators are still trying to determine just what caused the fire. Santiago told FOX 32 it's also critical to understand just what firefighters faced when they arrived.

“These are dangers that we run into all the time. And the only way we can protect our people is sometimes adjust our training to what we might encounter,” Santiago said.

The city's motion to demolish the building will be heard at the Daley Center at 2 p.m. Thursday.

An hour later on the South Side, visitation will begin in memory of the fallen firefighter. The visitation will be held at St. Rita High School at 7720 S. Western between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday, according to the fire department. The services will be held at St. Rita’s at 10 a.m., and the internment will follow at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery at 6001 W. 111th St. in Alsip.

The 15-year veteran of the department left behind a wife and three children.

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