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ABPA Member Best Value Auto Body Supply Loses Lawndale Warehouse in Fire

Source: David Struett and Manny Ramos, Chicago Sun-Times

Lawndale warehouse blaze extinguished. More than 250 firefighters had battled the four-alarm fire in a the Best Value Auto Body Supply Inc. warehouse on West 16th Street. More than 100,000 auto parts had been stored in the building.

Hundreds of firefighters were needed Thursday to extinguish a four-alarm fire that engulfed an auto parts warehouse in Lawndale on the West Side.

Crews worked through large plumes of smoke and heavy flames for more than three hours, finally putting out the blaze shortly after noon, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Merritt.

Firefighters had been called about 8:45 a.m. after flames were seen shooting through the roof of the Best Value Auto Body Supply Inc. warehouse at 4425 W. 16th St., Merritt said.

Within an hour, the fire had spread and a fourth alarm was sounded.

Merritt said the building was a total loss, with crews focusing on keeping the blaze from spreading to the adjacent building, a steel supplier.

“We surrounded the building on three of the four sides with water blasting from above,” said Barry Garr, the department’s assistant deputy fire commissioner for operations. Garr called it “one of the biggest fires we’ve had in recent history.”

At the scene, firefighters could be seen taking turns blasting water through broken windows in the burnt facade of the building.

ComEd and Peoples Gas worked to make sure power and gas lines to the building were shut off to prevent the fire from growing

Garr said the business owner “was upset, as could be imagined” over losing her business and had to be removed from the scene. One minor injury to a firefighter was being evaluated at a hospital.

“Nothing fire related,” Garr said. “He might have just slipped or tripped and hurt his shoulder.”

More than 250 firefighters and 90 engines and trucks were called to the fire, which was considered a hazardous materials incident due to the nature of some items stored in the building, Merritt said. The warehouse holds more than 100,000 auto parts, according to its website.

Given what was inside, Garr ordered a mobile lab brought to the scene. The technicians, he said, tested for contaminations and assured him there was no reason for concern.

Heat from the fire could be felt across a smoke-filled 16th Street between Kilbourn and Kostner avenues.

Kevin Vivetter, 29, lives nearby and walked over to see — and livestream — the fire.

Vivetter walked up and down 16th Street, mask on, phone out, through the smoke that filled the block.

“I’m just trying to understand how this happened. I mean, it’s great they were able to contain the fire but it’s scary,” he said. “I want to be a firefighter so I’m also here seeing how they do things.”

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