Crews early Wednesday began demolishing a fire-ravaged Lincoln Park furniture store after concerns it would collapse and spill onto CTA "L" tracks.
Smoke still streamed from a side of Roy's Home Furniture, and a fire official on the scene said he was prepared to call firefighters back to the site if it continued.
"The entire building will be razed," said Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford. "It is a total loss."
Firefighters arrived around 3 p.m. Tuesday to battle the blaze at 2455 North Sheffield. It took about 165 firefighters until 9:47 p.m. to put out the flames and "hot spots" in the building.
"It's more than just a furniture store that's burning there," said Brian Lighty, who lives across the street from Roy's Home Furniture where the fire started around 3:20 p.m. "There's a lot of history, and a lot of know how."
The Office of Fire Investigation said the likely cause is "careless use of smoking materials," most likely a cigarette discarded in some rubbish.
The fire delayed thousands of commuters during peak rush hour. By nightfall, the building was declared unstable and an investigation determined the cause of the fire as "careless use of smoking materials," Fire Media said.
Demolition crews were put on call after growing concerns the walls would fall onto the "L" tracks, Chicago Fire Department Spokesman Larry Langford said.
The store was opened by Roy Warner, who passed away and left it to his five kids. His only son, Roy Warner, Jr. currently runs the store. He was not available for comment but the insurance agent for the store and close friend, Jim Serpe, spoke on his behalf.
"It's a family-run business," said Serpe. "I've known them for a long time. I saw Roy Jr. and he's crying. It’s part of your life."
Fire officials said the blaze was fueled by the store's furniture, mattresses and plastics. The building's concrete roof trapped the heat and threatened the foundation with the possibility of an internal collapse. Fire fighters had to drown the blaze with water through the windows.
Even before the concern of a collapse on to the "L" tracks, the fire was causing problems for people traveling on the Brown, Purple and Red Lines during rush hour. A Cubs game let out at the same time creating even more congestion and a nightmare for those trying to get home.
"We were out here on the train waiting for about 30 minutes before they told us to come down stairs," said Kevin Adair, who was waiting to catch a Brown Line train at the Diversey stop. "It's a big inconvenience."
Frustrated travelers were forced to find alternate routes or use the shuttle buses to get to their destinations. The CTA encouraged travelers to take the #8 Halsted and #36 Broadway buses as a way to bridge the gap.
But that did not ease the congestion caused at several stops, like the Grand and State "L" stop where crowds began to form shortly after service was suspended.
No injuries were reported in the fire.
The bulk of the building is expected to be down by Wednesday morning and the demolition team expects no danger to "L" rails.