A massive additional alarm fire destroyed several businesses in the Northwest Side Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago early Monday morning.
Firefighters said the fire started 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 American Ninja Warrior TV show. The neighboring brewery, the Twisted Hippo, was also damaged by the fire, with part of the brewery collapsing during the fire.
The Chicago Fire Department’s media affairs office said at least one person, a man in his 60s, was taken to Sweden’s Covenant Hospital in critical condition due to smoke inhalation. No other injuries were reported as of 6 a.m. as flames continued to burn.
About 150 firefighters were called to the scene. The blaze was reportedly “under control” at 6.45am and extinguished by 9.00am, 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 is underway to determine where and how the fire was started.
Authorities at the scene said when firefighters arrived the fire was on the second and third floors of an apartment building in the area. Nearby buildings were also on fire. At one point, a partial building collapse sent bricks crashing into cars on the street.
Ultimate Ninjas, which has multiple locations in the Chicago area, had planned to hold a number of President’s Day camps for kids, according to their website.
Marilee Rutherford, the owner of the Twisted Hippo, said she first learned of a fire near her business when she received a call from her building owner.
“We weren’t on fire until now. I had a weird thought that we might salvage something,” she said. “But clearly that’s not going to happen.”
Rutherford said the company uses CO2 and nitrogen and some tanks were stored on a wall which caught fire.
“It’s going to be tough,” she said. “We were lucky to have him.”
The brewery has 12 employees and Rutherford said they have worked hard to adapt and grow after coming through the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was able to do it,” she said. “I think it’s a huge gift.”
Carbonneau said firefighters were not entering buildings Monday morning because the structures were at risk of further collapse.
“If you had a side angle, you could see the wall was already tilted, so that’s the danger,” he said, referring to the facade of commercial buildings.
The Chicago Building Department is expected at the scene by Monday afternoon, he said.
Check back for more details on this developing story.