A dangerous fire is made even worse by conditions inside a downtown Rockford high rise. A 13 News investigation finds the Rockford Trust Building had fire code violations that go back years before it caught fire two weeks ago.
The Rockford Fire Department says when the Trust Building caught fire on August 4th no alarm sounded, no sprinklers went off on the flames, in fact, when crews went into the building, the fire protection systems they count on to keep them safe and help save lives wasn't working.
It had the Rockford Fire Chief calling the fire very dangerous.
"This is the first one I've seen in 22 years of this size," says Chief Derek Bergsten.
Besides battling a blaze, crews faced extra dangers from a building in the middle of renovations.
"The hazards in this building. They had open shafts. They had a shaft that went all the way to the floor so thank goodness no one feel into the floor," Bergsten says.
Fire crews say when they arrived construction workers in the building told them about the open shafts but did not know where they were. The fire department says the shafts were not covered like the law requires. Firefighters say they also didn't know important fire equipment inside the building hadn't been working, for months. 13 News filed a Freedom of Information Act request on the code violation at the Trust Building. A fire department inspection report from May 2015 states the sprinkler pipes were broken and the standpipe was out of service. Firefighters hook their hoses into a standpipe, which provides them a water source on each floor of a building. Another report states the fire alarm never went off two weeks ago.
"The big risk is we don't have enough water to put the fire so the fire continues to grow. And if we are in a high rise building, evacuating people is time consuming, getting to the building is time consuming. Once we get to the fire if we don't have enough water that fire continues to grow and fire grows rapidly and the more the building is on fire the more dangers we run into," says Fire Inspector Chad Moe.
The fire department says it sent a letter to the Trust Buildings owners asking them to address newly found concerns with the building being turned into luxury condos. The fire department says some have already been corrected, like the open shafts. But it's not enough to make them feel 100-percent comfortable going back in if someone's life isn't in danger.
"We are definitely going to take a lot less risk in this building than we would normally because we do realize that there is some not functioning fire suppression systems in place," says Division Chief Matt Knott.
13 news contacted Morgan Management out of New York who owns the building. They did not comment to us. But the fire department says they are working closely with the builder to see fix some of the code issues and they say they are cooperating.