MFD Blog

Why We Do What We Do: Remembering the Our Lady of the Angels Fire

Posted on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 - 2:41pm

Our Lady of the Angels school and smoke
57 years ago today, a fire broke out at Our Lady of the Angels school in Chicago. All told, 92 children and 3 nuns died in the fire, which was started via juvenile fire-setting.  

Though the school had just passed a fire inspection a few weeks before the blaze, the building wasn’t required to abide by the modern safety standards of the time due to a grandfather clause that exempted it and other existing schools.
The Chicago Fire Department response was phenomenal, with a 4-minute response time for the first on scene. But there were many barriers in their way, including being misdirected to the wrong building, blocked by iron fences, and locked gates.  
On anniversaries like this, it’s important to take a moment to realize how far we have come with our fire codes and enforcement in the last half-century.

Our firefighters are highly trained and are a large part of the success we have as a city with fire prevention and mitigation. Our code enforcement officers, community education staff, and command staff also play vital roles in equipping our city with the knowledge and resources that keep our community safe.

Thanks to our collective efforts, the odds of tragedies occurring, like that at Our Lady of the Angels, are far less likely than 50 years ago.
Learn more about the Our Lady of the Angels fire at

This post was authored by Fire Prevention Officer Jerry McMullen.

Category: General

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