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Explosion, Fire Destroy South Suburban Restaurant

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WORTH, Ill. (STMW) – A massive fire destroyed a one-story building that housed a Chinese restaurant in south suburban Worth on Saturday after bystanders said they heard a loud explosion.

North Palos Fire Protection District Chief Dan Russell said firefighters responded to the blaze at Canton Express, 11318 S. Harlem Ave., about 12:40 p.m.

The 30-by-60 foot restaurant was engulfed in flames at the time fire crews arrived on scene, Russell said. Eight neighboring fire departments assisted with the blaze.

Firefighters undertook initial defensive operations and were able to bring the flames under control in about an hour, according to Russell.

Traffic was shut down on Harlem between 111th and 115th streets.

While the fire — which was in the kitchen area of the restaurant ­— was out within a half hour, investigators remained on the scene past 6 p.m.

The owner of the restaurant was there at the time of the fire, Russell said, but no one was injured in the blaze.

The restaurant had been closed since before Christmas, he said.

The building was scheduled for demolition Saturday night, as it was at risk of collapsing, Russell said.

Randy Swiat, owner of J-Tel Lawn and Snow Equipment, at 11322 S. Harlem Ave., said he was “selling a snow blower and heard a thump. I told my brother there was an accident out on Harlem, and my brothers were cleaning up, getting ready to close and came running out front and said the building just exploded. I looked out front and said, ‘Oh my God, the roof is gone,’ and we called the fire department. There were flames and black smoke pouring out. As far as I know, the restaurant was closed.”

The cause of the blaze remained under investigation Saturday.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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