Publication Date June 29, 2015 | Chicago Magazine

How 739 People Died in a Chicago Heat Wave

United States
Image: The Voorhes
Image: The Voorhes

For three horribly sweltering days in the summer of 1995, Chicago endured the deadliest stretch of heat ever recorded in the United States. The death toll ultimately numbered an estimated 739. Most victims were elderly and infirm and lived in the city’s poorest neighborhoods: Englewood, Fuller Park, and Roseland, to name a few. For reasons ranging from illness and immobility to poverty and fear, none were prepared for a weather event of such magnitude. The same was true for City Hall, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and others whose belated attempts to mitigate this disaster proved largely ineffectual.

Here is a look back at what happened and why, as told by those who experienced one of Chicago’s greatest tragedies firsthand