Even with portions still smoldering, crews on Friday morning began tearing down a vacant warehouse that was destroyed by fire and then encased in ice. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.
What lights up and freezes over must come down.
Demolition began Friday morning of the abandoned Bridgeport warehouse that caught fire this week and became the largest blaze Chicago has seen in years. The fire resulted in the response of more than 200 firefighters in freezing temperatures and remains covered in thick sheets of ice.
The northwest corner of the building on the 3700 block of South Ashland Avenue was the first to come down just before 10:30 a.m. Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said the demo company would work alongside firefighters as they contain the last bit of smoldering hot spots and make sure everyone stays safe.
The fire department said Friday afternoon the cause was an "open flame ignition of available combustibles" and turn the case over to the Chicago Police Department.
Since Tuesday's fire, concerns have grown over whether the structure will collapse. Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas said Thursday the six to eight inches of ice covering the warehouse are pulling on the structure and could force it to shift.
"There's a big concern of collapse," McNicholas said. "We know the structure's been compromised from the fire as well as the ice that's sitting on it."
Photos of the crystallized warehouse buzzed online this week as Chicago experienced its coldest nights of the year with temperatures plunging to -20 degrees.
"I couldn't believe it," neighbor Jesse Macias said. "It looked like the sun was out, that's how bright it was. Very orange bright. It was scary but I'm glad the fire department did their job."
The warehouse was formerly the Harris Marcus Group Building, a lamp manufacturer that once employed hundreds. A neighboring flag manufacturing business also was damage by the fire.