By Ann Rowland
A 5-alarm fire that began in an abandoned warehouse in Cicero, Illinois had firefighters battling in sub-freezing temperatures for several hours. The fire was first noticed around 6:00 pm Tuesday by a Cicero Water Department worker who quickly called it in to the Cicero Fire Department. By the time the fire department arrived minutes later, flames could be seen shooting up into the night sky from miles away.
Crews from Chicago and neighboring suburbs were quickly called in to help battle the blaze in the 3-story building that spread to a neighboring business. The fire became so large that a 3,000 foot line was brought in by the Chicago crew. With temperatures in the single digits, the firefighters were battling the elements along with the flames.
“With the ice conditions, right when you open up a hose line, the streets were a sheet of glass. We’re falling; everybody’s trying the best they can. We have salt trucks out from the town. It’s hindering us very much,” said Chief Ron Opalecky, Cicero Fire Department told local reporters.
It quickly turned into a defensive battle and heat from the blaze could be felt 50 yards away even in the freezing temperatures. Firefighters stayed away from and above the flames pouring water onto the fire, with the wind helping to push the water onto the flames. However, when the fire jumped to a neighboring business, Central Steel Fabricators, the flames grew as they were fueled by cardboard and aerosol cans. Firefighters were unsure of whether or not there were chemicals in the building that might cause explosions, so police were called upon to move spectators and media back from the scene.
The Cicero Animal Hospital is close to the scene; however, firefighters prevented the fire from spreading beyond the two buildings, which were both destroyed. The fire was contained around midnight but crews stayed throughout the night and into the morning. A warming center for firefighters and other first responders was set up at the nearby Cicero Alternative School and was used throughout the night. The school will be closed today. Local CTA service to and through the area was disrupted until after midnight.
It is unknown at this time if anyone was in the warehouse at the time of the fire and the cause of the fire is still under investigation. No injuries were reported. While firefighters were finishing up at this fire, they were called to the scene of another warehouse fire in Cicero. It was a long, cold night for Cicero firefighters.
Video provided by WMAQ-Channel 5 Chicago