CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Fire Department battled early Friday a large fire at a vacant warehouse in Humboldt Park.
The fire burned for hours and caused major traffic delays. One person was injured, but is unclear if the man was hurt in the fire. Fire crews found the man on the sidewalk outside the burning building.
Firefighters know the building well, as they have battled several fires there before. Squatters have taken over the old abandoned warehouse.
Alderman Walter Burnett said this fire may have started by a mattress.
“I was in my room laying down, seen a bright red flashing light.”
His name is Derrick, but he did not want his face shown. He has lived in the abandoned building for three or four years. He and seven others were inside the building when the fire broke out early Friday.
“Noticed fire coming from the top of the ceiling, burning there, at that time smoke got so think I couldn’t see. I was trying to get out,” the man said. “I used brick to get out and break the glass.”
One person, possibly a squatter, was taken to in serious condition to Stroger Hospital, with a leg injury.
When crews arrived, the winds spread the flames quickly and firefighters had to go on defensive mode.
Crews responded a little after 4 a.m. to the blaze at Grand and Homan, according to the Chicago Fire Department. A third alarm was called to bring more firefighters, who were taking a defensive approach to the fire as the roof collapsed, officials said.
“Blitz attack, a lot of water from the outside, because it’s vacant we don’t rush in there,” said Chicago Fire Department District Chief Donald Hroma. “We risk a lot to save a lot, we risk nothing to save nothing. Firefighters lives could be jeapordized in a building like this.”
The Chicago Fire Department District Chief Donald Hroma arrived at the scene around 6 a.m. as crews continued to put out the flames.
“Right now this fire has escalated to a 3-11. It came in around 4:05 a.m. and was immediately escalated to a still and box and 2-11 to a 3-11. We had a large amount of resources that came here. Right now we have the fire under control. It is a vacant warehouse, it has been here for a long period of time. We are in defensive mode. There has been one injury here, it was not a firefighter, it was a civilian who was on the street when we first arrived to the fire so we don’t know if it is related,” Hroma said.
The site has experienced other incidents in the past, he said. The fire is currently under investigation and it is unclear how the fire started.
Neighbors told CBS 2 they have been asking the city to demolish the building for years.
“I am actually not surprised that the building has caught on fire,” said neighbor Kevin Siroga. “There is anywhere between 20 to 30 homeless people living in there, predominantly all heroin addicts. This has been brought to the attention of the City of Chicago’s Building Department. They have been out here several times boarding up the buildings, at which time I was told that they do not have the money to do anything with the building, as far as bringing it down or what not.”
The 27th Ward Alderman said the building has been repossessed by the county, but just a few weeks ago, a developer came to him with a plan.
“The current owner was delinquent on taxes, more than a million dollars so it has fallen in the hands of the Cook County landbank. The Building Department and landbank were working with the developer to rehab the building,” said Ald. Walter Burnett.
“We’ve been aggressively trying for many years to do something with this building.”
The developer was on the scene looking at what is left of the building to see how he can move forward with his plan.
Alderman Burnett said police and fire are at the building regularly kicking squatters out. The city said it has spend $10,000 boarding up the building.
At about 5:30 a.m., another fire broke out on the first floor of a vacant building about 3 miles away in the 200 block of North Laflin in West Town. No one was hurt in that blaze. Investigators do not know what caused it.
Crews were still battling both fires as of 6 a.m.