North Riverside

Grease fire in food court prompted evacuations at North Riverside Park Mall

NBC Universal, Inc.

Cell phone video posted on the Citizen app showed heavy smoke billowing from the North Riverside Park Mall Thursday as everyone inside the building was ordered to evacuate while firefighters responded to the scene.

“I’m grateful that they took care of this situation very quickly and very fast,” mall employee Beth Blasco said. “You never know, there’s a lot of stores over there.”

Blasco told NBC Chicago she was settling into her shift at Xclusive Shoes when she heard commotion.

“I didn’t know exactly,” she said. “I just hear screaming, like a lot of screaming, like get out, get out and I thought okay, was it a shooting?”

She said she noticed smoke coming from the food court as she was rushing out.

Firefighters responded to the mall shortly after 11 a.m. near the intersection of Harlem Avenue and Cermak Road.

According to North Riverside mayor Joseph Mengoni, the fire started at one of the restaurants in the food court.

“It was one restaurant that had the grease fire and it affected the restaurant next door,” Mengoni said.

The heavy smoke filled the sky just an hour after the mall opened its doors. The mayor said the fire was contained to two restaurants.

“You never want to see that happen in your town,” he said. “Yes, there was a lot of smoke damage.”

Shoppers and employees stood around in the parking lot waiting to see if anyone was hurt or if it was safe for the mall to reopen. Mengoni said cleanup is underway in the food court to clear the smoke.

“It’s good that everybody is safe, that’s the most important thing,” Blasco said.

The mall has since reopened. The food court will remain closed while cleanup at the area continued.

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