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Second City thanks firefighters with free laughs, food and drink

Lieutenant Dwight Wilson, 54, and his wife Angela, received commemorative Second City fire shirts before a reopening performance on Sept. 17, which recognized fire crews who saved the theater from a neighboring restaurant fire last month. Lou Foglia/For the Sun-Times Lou Foglia

Before beginning the comedy show at Second City Thursday night that served as a thank you card to the firefighters in attendance who saved their building from a fire last month, performer Chelsea Devantez surveyed the crowd and passed along a serious message.

“There are a lot of firefighters in the audience tonight, so if you take away anything from tonight’s show, let it be the phone number of one of the single women on staff . . . there are three of us, don’t be shy.”

She then asked the firefighters — more than 100 attended, many with spouses and significant others — to turn off their phones, use the exit to the right and “in case of an emergency or a fire, please save us.”

It was a free show for the firefighters. Alcohol and food were also on the house.

Second City CEO Andrew Alexander took the stage briefly as well. “From the bottom of our hearts, thank you,” he said.

Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas, who was in charge of the nearly 150 firefighters who battled the August 26 extra alarm blaze that gutted portions of the building, took the stage before the start of the show and asked his troops who were there that day to stand.

Several dozen Second City staff members gave them a prolonged standing ovation.

“Those first companies that got on the scene here, you held your ground, you did what you do best,” McNicholas said.

“We did everything we could not to lose a lot more than we could have lost . . . there’s a lot of things that could have went south,” he said.

The fire started in the Adobo Grill, a restaurant housed on the ground floor of the same building in the Old Town neighborhood. Flames spread to the top floor through a grease chute and destroyed much of Second City’s office space.

Firefighters shoved heavy tarps in dozens of doorways throughout the building to block water from entering certain areas and mitigate water damage.

Deputy Commissioner John McNicholas took to the stage for a brief moment during the Second City’s reopening performance on Sept. 17, which recognized fire crews who saved the theater from a neighboring restaurant fire last month. Lou Foglia/For the Sun-Times

The Second City’s theater space was spared.

“Because of the valiant efforts that were put forward, you guys made world news that day, and you made the Chicago Fire Department shine,” McNicholas said

Fire Captain Dan Sheahan, who helped battle the blaze, said it was nice to be recognized.

“Sometimes it’s just nice when people say thank you,” he said.

Over the years, tokens of thanks dropped off at his firehouse on Larabee and Division have included coffee, cupcakes, brownies and other treats.

“But this is the best,” he said.

Second City worked feverishly to get the building back in shape for Thursday evening’s performance, its first since the fire.

The smell of smoke was gone, thanks to fresh carpeting, paint and tables and chairs.

“People will begin spilling beer again in here tonight, and it will smell the same again in no time,” joked Tyler Alexander, vice president of brand and marketing for Second City.