Albany Park fire guts Twisted Hippo brewpub, gym, apartment building; 1 injured

Chicago Fire Department investigating cause of fire

Tuesday, February 22, 2022
Albany Park fire guts brewpub, gym, apartment building
A Chicago fire in Albany Park destroyed the Twisted Hippo brewpub, Ultimate Ninjas gym and a residential apartment building on N. Richmond Ave.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An extra-alarm fire spread to multiple buildings in Albany Park on the Northwest Side Monday morning, leaving one man seriously injured, the Chicago Fire Department said.

The fire started at about 3:30 a.m. in the 4300-block of North Richmond Street and spread to multiple buildings, including a residential building, the Twisted Hippo brewpub and the Ultimate Ninjas gym. Neighbors said the gym and the brewpub have been destroyed by the fire.

The Chicago Fire Department said a 60-year-old man was transported to the hospital in serious condition with smoke inhalation.

There was a partial building collapse, with some rubble falling on nearby vehicles. Neighbors heard and saw explosions, which the owner of Twisted Hippo said was likely caused by their carbon dioxide and nitrogen tanks.

Chicago Fie Dept. Deputy District Chief Thomas Carbonneau gives an update on the extra-alarm Albany Park fire Monday morning.

"We were right in our front window," said neighbor Brian Pudil. "We could see it and we could feel the impact. It was so big."

The Twisted Hippo taproom and eatery owner was devastated by the sight of her business burning.

"It's a little unreal," said Twisted Hippo owner Marilee Rutherford. "It's hard. It's going to be hard, but we are lucky to have had it and we will see how we move forward."

As one of the outside brick walls at the Twisted Hippo collapsed and crushed cars, a next-door business was also burning, Ultimate Ninjas Gym. Its President's Day camp for kids was sold out.

A huge fire in Albany Park destroyed businesses and an apartment building Monday morning.

"We love Chicago, we love what we do for the community but it's gonna be hard to figure out what to do at this point," said Jeff Piejak, Ultimate Ninjas owner. "It's just all up in the air."

"It's really difficult to see," neighbor Vanessa Peña said. "This is a local business that has been a staple in the neighborhood."

A three-story apartment building next to the businesses also caught fire, leaving several residents homeless.

"I lost everything. That's it. I have everything that I own on my back. Everybody here in the building lost everything because they are not going to let us back in for a while and even if everything didn't get screwed up by the fire, all of the water damage is going to do in everything else," said building resident Michael May.

"I do have work today and I work from home," said resident Jason New. "Now that I'm homeless, I don't know what is going on."

The cause of the fire still being investigated, but the fire department said it appears to have started outside in a gangway underneath wooden stairs between the commercial and residential buildings. But officials stopped short of calling the fire suspicious.

Some residents said the fire started in a third floor apartment, but the apartment's landlord, Gary Carlson, said it did not.

"There's no way that that fire jumped from my building to the Twisted Hippo building," Carlson said.

He cited a text message from one of his tenants, saying: "I got there before the building caught fire. The bar next door was on fire, then 4339 N. Richmond caught fire."

4339 N. Richmond is the address of Carlson's residential building.

Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Tom Carbonneau said Monday morning the fire has been struck out and firefighters would remain on the scene to put out any hot spots.

"The Building Department is gonna come out and this building will have to be knocked down for the safety of everybody," Chief Carbonneau said. "The front right now is still bowing out right now, so the front of that is going to collapse eventually or get knocked down."

A GoFundMe page has already raised more than $100,000 to help the Twisted Hippo Brewpub rebuild.

Across the street at Montrose Saloon, neighbors raised a glass Monday night.

"We figured we'd come out, have a beer, and unfortunately, come see the damage and see what it looks like," Albany Park resident Armin Suljevic said. "And that's when it really hits you just how bad it is."