ALBANY PARK — An extra-alarm fire erupted at an Albany Park business Tuesday afternoon, enveloping parts of the Northwest Side in thick smoke and gutting the building.
The fire erupted about noon at Jojo Discount Outlet Home Line, 3040 W. Lawrence Ave. Chief Tom Carbonneau said around 130 firefighters converged on the busy commercial strip as dark smoke poured from the roof, back of the building and out the front door. Flames could be seen coming from the rear of the building.
Customers were inside the building when the fire started in the second-level storage area and everyone inside quickly got out once they realized what was happening, fire department spokesman Larry Langford said. No injuries were reported.
Carbonneau said the fire quickly consumed the truss roof, which is “the most dangerous fire we can have.” Once fire burns through a truss roof, the walls supporting it will kick out and cause the roof to collapse, making it impossible for firefighters to enter the building, Carbonneau said. Multiple crews of firefighters started overhead master streams to start dousing the roof at several angles.
The rear of the building partially collapsed around 1 p.m. and the roof also collapsed, Carbonneau said.
As firefighters appeared to be focusing on the roof and the rear of the building, massive flames appeared in the storefront, shattering the glass and engulfing the building within a few seconds, forcing onlookers to scatter out of the way.
Firefighters set up hoses on Lawrence Avenue to battle the rapidly spreading flames, which torched a street sign in front of the building.
The building was a “total loss” and will have to be torn down, fire officials said. Carbonneau said the fire was contained to the one store, although some neighboring shops may have some smoke damage.
As of 1:50 p.m., the fire had been mostly contained and crews continued working to douse hot spots at the front of the building.
As the flames subsided, onlookers could see the interior of the building was destroyed. The sign for the business melted away, revealing the old painted metal sign for an old car dealership.
This is among four fires that have occurred in Albany Park in recent weeks, with three happening within days of each other.
A massive fire that started at an apartment building Feb. 21 tore through the neighboring Twisted Hippo brewpub and Ultimate Ninjas Gym, destroying both buildings. Other nearby fires included a vacant building at 3318 W. Cullom Ave. and a church at 4500 N. Spaulding Ave.
While Langford said the frequency of the fires in the area is not typical, he and Carbonneau said they don’t have reason to believe the fires are connected in any way. Investigations are ongoing but officials said the causes and circumstances of the fires were very different.
“Everyone tries to tie them together … but it’s a coincidence that it’s in the same neighborhood; that’s all,” Carbonneau said.
Carbonneau said fire crews will be on the scene for several hours Tuesday investigating and securing the building. There was still some fire burning underneath the roof that they needed to let burn out before firefighters could safely enter, Carbonneau said.
Alex V. Hernandez contributed.
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