More than 150 firefighters battled a fire that destroyed a factory and spread to another building Tuesday evening in the Hermosa neighborhood on the Northwest Side.
“The last time we had a five-alarm fire was years ago,” Chicago Fire Dept. Cmdr. Frank Velez said. About one-third of the department responded to a blaze at Newly Weds Foods in the 4100 block of West Wrightwood Avenue.
Flames shot through the factory’s roof, drawing a large black cloud of smoke that could be seen across town.
Within an hour of crews showing up at 5 p.m. the building had collapsed and was deemed a “total loss,” the department said. The fire was upgraded by 7 p.m. to a level five-alarm. More than 100 pieces of equipment, including engines and support vehicles, responded, Velez said.
The fire was also upgraded to a hazardous materials scene as a precaution for the yeast and risers inside the building, according to Velez, who said the ingredients did not cause an issue.
When the fire was first detected, employees evacuated themselves from the building and were all accounted for, Velez said.
One firefighter was transported for a “very minor issue,” according to Velez, who did not know the specific injury.
Metra Milwaukee District North trains were halted at Healy for over an hour due to “fire adjacent to the tracks,” Metra said. Valez said the fire did not move to the tracks, but that heavy smoke nearby prompted the department to advise Metra to stop trains until they could make sure it was safe. Trains were moving again by 8:20 p.m., Metra said.
Crews were “turning the corner” on the fire about 8:50 p.m., the department said in a tweet. By then, the roof of the adjacent building had partially collapsed, Velez said.
The fire was extinguished by 10:30 p.m., Velez said, although crews were still working on “hot spots.”
The buildings were owned by Newly Weds Foods, a global company founded in 1932 in Chicago that makes batters and breadings for the frozen food service industry.
Velez said the last fire that drew such a large response was a 2013 fire in Bridgeport on the South Side. More than 170 firefighters worked a warehouse fire in negative wind chills in the 3700 block of South Ashland Avenue. By the end of the fire, frozen ice covered the walls of the building and earned it the name “ice tower,” Velez said.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.