Cause of Fire Undetermined in Chicago Firefighter Death

The results of an initial investigation into the fire that killed a Chicago firefighter remain undetermined, reports the Chicago Tribune. Additional tests will be done.

Capt. Herbert Johnson, 54, died after being injured in a house fire. Johnson apparently went into cardiac arrest when intense heat from a flashover damaged his airways and died as doctors worked on him at the University of Chicago emergency room, officials said.

In a flashover, “air becomes super-heated and what appears as rolling dark smoke suddenly erupts into solid flame,” said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford. “The smoke heats past the so-called flash point and becomes all flame. [It is] very hard to escape as temps are well over 1000 degrees. But we don’t know if that was [the] case yet.”

Johnson died from inhalation injuries from a building fire in an accident, the Cook County medical examiner’s office determined today.

Investigations into what exactly happened that led to his death began today, and a water heater in the attic “is of interest at the source,” Langford said through the department’s official Twitter account.
However, a final determination is suspended until the water heater can be analyzed by engineers, he said. As of now the report by the Office of Fire Investigations states “undetermined suspended.” No timetable for the final report was available.

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