A 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department died after falling down an elevator shaft in thick smoke while battling a vacant warehouse fire on the Far South Side early Monday.
Daniel Capuano, 42, was wheeled out of the building at 92nd Street and Baltimore Avenue around 2:40 a.m. and rushed to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead less than two hours later, officials said.
When firefighters arrived at the three-story building in the South Chicago neighborhood, there was heavy smoke throughout the second floor as firefighters searched for the source of the blaze, fire Commissioner Jose Santiago said.
“As the firefighters went in there, they saw some holes throughout the floor,” Santiago said. “They gave out an emergency alert, ‘Be careful.’ It looks like Firefighter Daniel had just walked into the elevator shaft as he was searching, couldn’t see and fell.”
Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said there was no visibility as firefighters worked on the second floor. But firefighters were able to see a “glow” through the smoke where the flames were rising.
Capuano was with another firefighter when he fell through the shaft, he said. Firefighters were able to find him right away.
Capuano was assigned to Tower Ladder 34 and is survived by his wife and three children, Santiago said. He had previously worked as a firefighter in suburban Evergreen Park.
“This is devastating to the family,” Santiago said at the hospital. “We’ll get our heads together and add more later on.
“We hope you can keep the Capuano family in your prayers, and the department members that work with him,” Santiago added. “This is devastating to the family.”
About 20 Chicago Fire Department personnel, including a handful in their helmets and firefighting gear, waited outside the Cook County medical examiner’s office Monday morning in windy drizzle for Capuano’s body to arrive at the morgue.
Two firetrucks faced each other on opposite sides of Harrison Street, their ladders hoisted into the air and nearly touching each other. One of the ladders had an American flag hanging from it. At times, the wind wrapped it against the ladder.
The crackle of radio traffic could be heard over the rumbling engines of the firetrucks. Police cordoned off Harrison with squad cars from Hoyne to Oakley.
This is the third death of a firefighter from Tower Ladder 34 in the last five years.
On Dec. 22, 2010, Firefighters Corey Ankum, 34, of Tower Ladder 34, and Edward Stringer, 47, of Engine Company 63, were killed while battling a blaze at an abandoned laundry at 1744 E. 75th St. in the South Shore neighborhood. The two died after the roof collapsed.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement saying “Chicago has lost one of its bravest in Dan Capuano.”
“As a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department, Dan spent his career putting the safety of others ahead of his own,” the statement said. “He made the ultimate sacrifice so Chicago’s residents could be safe. For that, there are no words that can truly express our sorrow for his loss nor our gratitude for his service and sacrifice to the City of Chicago. The thoughts and prayers of a grateful city are with Dan, his family and his fellow firefighters at this difficult time.”