albany park

Massive Fire Destroys Popular Businesses in Chicago's Albany Park

Flames could be seen consuming the Ultimate Ninja facility, a gym inspired by the TV show "American Ninja Warrior"

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A massive extra-alarm fire has destroyed multiple businesses in Chicago's Northwest Side Albany Park neighborhood early Monday morning.

Fire officials said the fire broke out around 3:30 a.m. in the 4300 block of North Richmond.

Flames could be seen consuming the Ultimate Ninjas facility, a gym inspired by the TV show "American Ninja Warrior." Nearby brewery the Twisted Hippo was also seen damaged by the blaze, with part of the brewery collapsing during the blaze.

The Chicago Fire Department's office of media affairs said at least one person, a man in his 60s, was taken to Swedish Covenant Hospital in critical condition due to smoke inhalation. No other injuries were reported by 6 a.m. as flames continued to burn.

Roughly 150 firefighters were called to the scene. The fire was said to be "under control" by 6:45 a.m. and was out by 9 a.m., with firefighters still working to put out hot spots.

The cause of the fire and the extent of the damage to the buildings were not immediately known.

First District Chief Thomas Carbonneau said an investigation was underway to determine where the fire was sparked and how.

Authorities at the scene said when firefighters arrived, the fire was on the second and third floor of an apartment building in the area. Nearby buildings were also on fire. At one point, a partial building collapse sent bricks crashing down onto cars in the street.

Ultimate Ninjas, which has several locations across the Chicago area, had planned to hold a number of President's Day camps for children, according to their website.

Marilee Rutherford, the owner of the Twisted Hippo, said she first learned about a blaze near her business when she received a call from her building's owner.

"We were not on fire up to this point. I had a strange thought we could save something," she said. "But clearly that's not going to happen."

Rutherford said the business uses CO2 and Nitrogen and some tanks were stored on a wall that caught fire.

"It's going to be hard," she said. "We were lucky to have it."

The brewery has 12 employees and Rutherford said they had been working hard to adapt and grow after pushing through the coronavirus pandemic.

"Been able to do it," she said. "I think that's a huge gift."

Carbonneau said firefighters were not entering the buildings Monday morning as the structures were at risk of further collapse.

"If you had a side angle you could see that the wall was bowed out already so that's the danger," he said, referring to the front of the commercial buildings.

Chicago's building department is expected at the scene by Monday afternoon, he said.

Check back for details on this developing story.

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