The building is several blocks long and extra firefighters had to be called to the scene near 116th and Burley Ave.
They had trouble getting water to the scene and they were worried about the fumes coming from that fire.
The fire commissioner said the weather was somewhat of a problem because of the driving wind, rain and snow, but ultimately it was the water.
Water, or lack of it, was the challenge Thursday night as Chicago firefighters struggled to put out a fire at a Southeast Side recycling center.
"One of the problems we initially had was the water hydrants are located very far," said CFD Commissioner Jose Santiago.
Fire officials say there are no fire hydrants on the site. A plan to use a helicopter or fire boat didn't work either because of the weather and visibility.
Firefighters then turned to drafting, or sucking water, from the Calumet River 200 feet away from the scene.
"There are no residents back there," said resident Bruce Wojcicki. "There is a recycling plant where we take our cans, and people take their junk in."
Fire officials say the truss-roof building has recyclable materials, like plastics and electronics. Nearby residents could smell the burning fumes.
"It was a really strong fume, you could feel it in your lungs," said resident Stefanie Valdez. "Like I said earlier, it made you want to cough."
More than 170 firefighters and 60 pieces of equipment are at the scene, which was still active late Thursday night. The fire is now under control.
"We're still checking the water on the runoff," Santiago said. "We always do that in a major industrial fire like this to make sure everyone's safe."
One firefighter was injured when she tripped and hurt her back. They expect that to be minor.