Insurance company sues to stop demolition of building where firefighter died

Tribune reporter

An insurance company is suing the City of Chicago and the owners of a two-story building where a Chicago firefighter died last week, asking a judge to stop any future demolition of the site.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, Allstate Indemnity Company says the city is looking to raze the Gage Park home where Capt. Herbert Johnson died during a Nov. 2 blaze. The insurance company claims forensic evidence on the property must be preserved so its experts can complete their investigation.

“Upon information and belief…City of Chicago seeks immediate demolition of the property, or in no less than within 72 hours,” the lawsuit states.

Johnson, 54, was found in the attic of a burning building in the 2300 block of West 50th Place on Nov. 2. The 32-year veteran of the Chicago Fire Department was apparently caught in a "flashover" burst of flames that damaged his airways and sent him into cardiac arrest. He died despite paramedics’ attempts to resuscitate him.

According to the suit, Allstate issued an insurance policy to Mario and Lucia Soriano for the Gage Park home prior to the Nov. 2 fire. The injunctive relief suit claims the property poses no threat to the neighbors and surrounding community and is repairable.

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