Investigators look into cause of a Chicago extra-alarm warehouse fire

Investigators look into cause of extra-alarm warehouse fire 

By Peter Nickeas

Tribune reporter

5:23 a.m. CDT, October 1, 2012
Investigators are expected back on the scene this morning as they look into the cause of an extra-alarm fire that destroyed a warehouse in the Avondale neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

It took more than 200 firefighters eight hours to put out the 5-11 alarm blaze in the 2600 block of West Nelson Street Sunday. Crews remained on the scene much of the day, putting out hot spots and tearing down unstable walls. No injuries were reported.

The fire started around 1:30 a.m. and spread through the top three floors of the building, causing the north wall and some of the floors to collapse. Firefighters wedged in between neighboring buildings and the wall were warned over their radios before the wall fell over.

Firefighters on a ladder near a west corner of the building yelled to a dozen firefighters below to watch for power lines, which shook violently but didn't fall when the brick wall came crashing down.

Thick black smoke from the building cast a haze over the neighborhood as the plume drifted south. Fire trucks lined Elston and Belmont avenues and many of the side streets around the burning building, one of the tallest in a neighborhood of frame homes and commercial buildings.

Neighbors poured out of their homes, sat on porches and walked toward the fire to get a closer look.

"We came out at three - at first I couldn't figure out why the street was closed, we just heard a lot of noise," said Nancy Cervantes, who stood with her 9-year-old granddaughter outside the scene.

"She's never up this early," Cervantes said of her granddaughter Narissa. "I woke her up so she could see this ... to see how firemen and policemen all work together, with the table set up (with refreshments) and the gurney (with supplies)."

Keywords:  Chicago warehouse fire, warehouse fire protection, fire sprinklers, smoke alarms, storage occupancy fire