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Firm hopes to block demolition of home where Herbie Johnson died

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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:47AM



An insurance company representing owners of the home where Chicago Fire Department Capt. Herbie Johnson died battling a blaze last week filed an emergency request in court Tuesday, hoping to block the city from demolishing the structure.

Allstate Indemnity Company insures the property for landlords Lucia and Mario Soriano and filed the petition in Cook County Circuit Court.

The petition asks a judge to grant a temporary restraining order preventing the city from demolishing the home at 2315 W. 50th Place.

Johnson, a 33-year veteran promoted to captain just this summer, died after suffering second- and third-degree burns from a possible “flash over” while battling flames inside the two-story home on Friday. A second firefighter, Brian Woods, suffered non-life-threatening smoke inhalation.

“We did an inspection as was appropriate and we processed the building for demolition,” Department of Buildings spokesperson Susan Massel said

The petition claims the city plans “immediate demolition” of the home in less than 72 hours.

Massel declined to comment on a timeframe for the proposed demolition Tuesday night, but said it was the appropriate course of action because more than 25 percent of the house sustained fire damage.

Allstate’s attorneys say the investigation into the cause of the blaze is still ongoing, and the property must be preserved so experts can finish analyzing forensic evidence. The home does not pose a threat to the surrounding community, they claim.

The owner and the insurance company can provide their own restoration plan, and no demolition would go forward until fire department officials complete their own investigation, Massel said.

Johnson was the first Chicago firefighter to die in the line of duty since 2010.

Authorities had not officially determined the cause of the blaze as of Friday, but said a water heater in the attic was of interest as the source, Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said.



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