Electric Malfunction Eyed in Back-of-the-Yards Fire

Thursday evening fire in 4800 South Ashland Avenue spread to nearby buildings and caused one to partially collapse

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Thursday evening fire in 4800 South Ashland Avenue spread to nearby buildings and caused one to partially collapse. Jeff Goldblatt reports.

    A raging inferno in Chicago's Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood Thursday evening appears to have started by some sort of electric malfunction, investigators said.

    A day later, the half city block of 4800 South Ashland Avenue had the appearance of a battleground after the fire ravaged businesses and apartments.

    "It looks like a different country, like we just went to war, like somebody bombed in or something,” said Chicago resident Jose Dominguez.

    The extra-alarm blaze gutted four, two-story brick buildings.

    "I lost everything. TVs. Everything,” said Joel Castaneda, who rented a second floor apartment and now finds himself homeless. He spent Friday morning working with his landlord to try and find a temporary place to live.

    Outside Ashland Convenience and Liquor, employees were in mop-up mode. Smoke got into the store, but not the flames. The owner's son thanked firefighters for their work.

    "I think they did a great job. It’s a very difficult fire they had to combat," said Larry, who requested not to publish his last name. "It was very resilient. It kept reigniting."

    No injuries were reported in the extra-alarm blaze, but a portion of an appliance store collapsed and the fire spread to at least two surrounding restaurants, the fire department said.

    "My wife's dryer was in Garza Appliance New & Used. There were fixing it. She's going to be pretty mad. She didn't want it to get scratched first of all. Now it got blown up," said Dominguez. 

    The blaze started about 6:50 p.m. Thursday and was out about two hours later.