More than 170 firefighters battled a massive five-alarm fire in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood Tuesday night that engulfed an abandoned warehouse and spread to at least one other building.
"We haven’t had a fire this big in many years," fire department spokesman Larry Langford said as crews fought the fire on the 3700 block of South Ashland Avenue. The blaze prompted the department's biggest response in seven years with about one-third of Chicago firefighters turning out.
On Wednesday morning, the five-story building was covered in ice from all the water poured onto it in freezing temperatures. Chicago saw dangerously cold 10-degree temperatures overnight after the coldest day in several years with wind chill lows plunging to -10 and -20 degrees.
Firefighters were still on the scene Wednesday morning, and South Ashland was closed in both directions between South Archer Avenue and West Pershing Road.
Langford predicted the building would be a total loss but said Tuesday he expected it wouldn't spread. It did, but firefighters attacked that quickly.
"We took that out right away," Langford said.
That neighboring building is a printing company, its owner told NBC Chicago. He expressed concern about chemicals inside that could explode. Firefighters were also concerned about the nearby location of a fuel pumping station to the east of the warehouse.
A battalion chief who happened to be driving by the boarded-up warehouse first spotted smoke coming from the vacant building around 9 p.m. and called it in to authorities, Langford explained. The fire was quickly elevated to five alarms, which typically calls about 30 percent of the entire city's firefighting equipment to a single location.
"Totally coincidence," Commissioner Jose Santiago said. "He thought he saw smoke, turned back around, then he got out of the vehicle, went inside to take a look and said, 'I've got a fire back here. Give me a full response."
The building, portions of which collapsed during the fire, has a sign on it reading "Harris Market Group." A photo shared by the fire department on Twitter showed flames coming from all the windows.
One firefighter was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn with a minor back injury, authorities said. His condition was not thought to be life-threatening.