UPDATED 05/30/12 11:47 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Demolition and cleanup are underway after a massive fire destroyed Roy’s Furniture Company in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, careless smoking is suspected as the cause of the fire at Roy’s, at 2455 N. Sheffield Ave.
Demolition crews are taking down what is left of the building, but that is proving to be no easy task. The eastern portion of the building is separated by only about 5 feet from Chicago Transit Authority Red-Brown-Purple line tracks.
Crews did not want to shut down CTA service during rush hour, and hope not to have to do so at all. But the CTA is working with the Fire and Buildings departments, and will shut down service if needed.
The CTA says any ‘L’ service shutdown will happen during non-rush hour time.
Lyndsey Gilman lives just up the street.
“It was scary to see the smoke billowing, and you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.
It was scarier still because Gilman’s husband wasn’t home at the time. That was why she snapped a picture Wednesday of Roy’s in ruins.
Gilman’s plan is to send the picture to her husband so he can see for himself how the fire has forever changed their block.
“I can’t believe it,” Gilman said. “It’s worse than I even thought it was going to be.”
It was so bad, in fact, that even a day after the fire, more than sixteen hours after the fire broke out the mass of mangled debris continued to smolder.
Roy’s advertises itself as “one of the oldest established furniture companies in Chicago.” The store was founded by the late Roy Warner in 1984.
“Finding a new, reasonably priced sofa that’s either (a) not from IKEA or, (b) scored off Craigslist is a near-impossible task. Which is why folks who shop at this Lincoln Park locale tend to become Roy’s evangelists,” Time Out Chicago’s Jessica Herman wrote in 2010.
Brittany, who did not want her last name, used said Roy’s was a great family owned business known for its customer service.
She says couches and living room sets like the ones still on display in the burned out windows decorate many of her friends’ homes.
“It’s just sad to see Roy’s. I walk by it every day, to and from work. It was a great furniture store. It’s just sad. I can’t believe it went down in flames,” she said.
The fire broke out around 3:20 p.m. Tuesday. Less than half an hour later, the fire was elevated to a 3-11 alarm, as flames consumed wooden furniture and mattresses.
Home video showed violent flames consuming the venerable furniture business. Firefighters were still looking for hot spots six hours later.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Michael Callahan said the fire was particularly difficult to fight.
“First, it’s a furniture store. Second is the construction of the building. What was the roof of the building about 15 years ago is now the floor of the second floor, and it’s all wooden truss. It’s a very heavy fire load,” he said.
The decision was made to fight the fire from the outside.
“It was in the defensive attack, what we call it,” said Fire Deputy Commissioner Mark Nielsen. “We don’t want to jeopardize any firefighter lives.”
But the danger spread far beyond the building itself.
A couple of students from DePaul University, which is just south of the furniture store, said they were walking by the building Tuesday afternoon when the fire broke out, and as they were watching firefighters work at the scene, a car parked in a loading bay at the furniture store exploded after it became engulfed in flames.
“We just walked, and I was close to the building, so I didn’t see it going on. She saw it first. I took a step, and then all of a sudden the car exploded, and I felt this heat, and I got this rubble on my arm. Scary,” DePaul student Rachel Bokina told CBS 2’s Brad Edwards.
The DePaulia student newspaper kept students informed via Twitter, as the fire spread rapidly. Winds created a risk of spreading the fire to neighboring buildings and the adjacent ‘L’ tracks.
Meanwhile, as more than 160 firefighters tried to bring the blaze under control, the fire wreaked havoc on the afternoon commute.
The Chicago Transit Authority Brown, Red and Purple Line Express trains were halted altogether for nearly three hours from Belmont Avenue to the Sedgwick stop on the Brown and Purple lines, and the North/Clybourn subway stop on the Red Line.
Commuters tweeted about their frustration as they found themselves hampered by the halted ‘L’ lines.
“I am living CTApocalypse right now,” tweeted improv comedian Marie Maloney.
“Fire = train delays = packed buses and cab shortage. Good thing it’s a gorgeous afternoon!” tweeted Diana Cannon.
While buses still ran through the area as an alternative, some Twitter users began tweeting with the hashtag #StartWalking.
Meanwhile, Roy’s Furniture was a total loss, despite the best efforts of employees to save it.
No one was injured in the fire.