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February 19, 2010
SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE
Two firefighters will remain hospitalized while two others will be going home later Thursday after they were injured by a backdraft while battling a blaze in a South Side Back of the Yards neighborhood home.

Two firefighters were taken to University of Chicago Hospital and two others were taken to Holy Cross Hospital after suffering injuries about 2:45 p.m. fighting a fire at 4855 S. Paulina St., according to Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford.

As of 5:30 p.m., Langford said the two firefighters at U of C would remain hospitalized for at least another day and possibly longer, one with burns and possible airway injuries and the other with airway injuries.

Both were listed in good condition, he said. "They're OK. There's nothing life-threatening."

The two firefighters at Holy Cross were to be released from the hospital later Thursday, he said.

The fire started in one room of a 1-1/2 story coach house, Langford said. One of the firefighters was on a ladder and the other three were going up the stairs to enter the front of the building when the backdraft occurred, he said.

"The fire basically comes to the oxygen when you open the door," he said. "It kind of explodes in a cloud of smoke, flame and debris with some pressure behind it."

A firefighter in the basement had extinguished the main blaze, Langford said, and it looked like the fire was out. A backdraft occurs, he said, when a small amount of fire remains but is dying out from lack of oxygen.

"The fire can go out from being starved for oxygen, but like a living thing, it seeks out oxygen. When they open the door to make entry, the fire and pressure build up and it rushes out at them." He called it a "classic backdraft."

He said by most measures the Paulina blaze was not considered large, but it goes to show "there's no such thing as a small fire."

The fire was fully extinguished quickly but caused extensive damage to the house, Langford said. The cause and origin were not immediately known.

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