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Massive Warehouse Fire Caused By Open Flame Inside

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A wrecking crane begins demolition of a vacant warehouse at 3757 S. Ashland Av. on Jan. 25, 2012. The warehouse was gutted by a massive fire just days earlier, and embers of that fire were still burning as demolition began. (Credit: Chicago Fire Department)

A wrecking crane begins demolition of a vacant warehouse at 3757 S. Ashland Av. on Jan. 25, 2012. The warehouse was gutted by a massive fire just days earlier, and embers of that fire were still burning as demolition began. (Credit: Chicago Fire Department)

Updated 01/25/13 – 6:05 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago Police are investigating the massive fire that gutted a Bridgeport warehouse earlier this week, after Fire Department investigators determined it was the result of an open flame igniting combustible material in the building.

The Fire Departments’ Office of Fire Investigations determined the fire was caused by “open flame ignition of available combustibles,” and has passed the case to the Chicago Police Department to determine if the fire was the result of arson, according to Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

Local residents have said squatters have been a problem at the building, which has been vacant for years. But authorities have not yet said if it’s believed squatters had set a fire inside to keep warm, resulting in the extra-alarm fire that destroyed the building.

The fire broke out late Monday night at 3757 S. Ashland Av., and raged for hours before firefighters got the flames under control. About a third of the city’s Fire Department was dispatched to the warehouse to douse the blaze and prevent it from spreading to other neighboring buildings.

After the fire had been extinguished, fire department officials estimated the building had been coated with 6 to 8 inches of ice from the firefighting efforts.

Even after most of the flames were extinguished, crews remained on the scene for several days to monitor hotspots.

The fire flared up again at least once on Thursday, and again fully engulfed the building before it was struck out again.

Friday morning, demolition crews began tearing down what remained of the building. Three walls and the roof of the building collapsed in the initial blaze.

Parts of the fire were still burning on Friday, and crews were expected to be at the building all day.