Chicago Fire Department battles extra-blaze in Bridgeport in vacant church

ByMichelle Gallardo and ABC7 Chicago Digital Team WLS logo
Monday, April 10, 2023
Massive fire breaks out at vacant church in Bridgeport
At one point the smoke enveloped several city blocks. More than 100 emergency personnel were rushed to the scene.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Fire Department battled an extra-alarm fire in the Bridgeport neighborhood Monday morning.

Chicago firefighters responded at about 8:22 a.m. to the fire in the 2900-block of South Archer Avenue.

At one point the smoke enveloped several city blocks. More than 100 emergency personnel were rushed to the scene. Fire officials said the fire appeared to have broken out inside a vacant church.

Firefighters tacking the flames from the outside had, at one point, three elevated lines going simultaneously.

"The fire got into the trusses and we immediately evacuated them back out of the building," said CFD Chief Jim McDonough. "Bowstring truss is one of our most dangerous fires."

Chopper 7HD flies above an extra-alarm fire on Archer Avenue in the Bridgeport neighborhood.

And with two two-story buildings on either side, letting the fire consume the church was not an option. Residents from both adjacent buildings were able to get out safely.

"Right away we went up, did our primary searches in each of those buildings to make sure that no one occupied at the time, business or residential," McDonough said.

How the first started is still unknown. Jay Patel, who owns a food and liquor store that until today was contained within the building, said he arrived at work around 8:15 a.m. to open up for the day and realized something was off.

"I walked in my store. I heard a weird noise coming from somewhere so I checked my coolers and everything sounds OK. Nothing," he said. "26 I came out of the store and looked around, but there was nothing. That's when I saw the next door glass window and there was a fire going on right in the middle of the building."

The storefront where the fire appears to have started belonged, until recently, to the Restore Center Church. Both the State Fire Marshall and ATF are on the scene as part of the investigation into what caused the blaze. While inspection records do not point to any violations since 2017, Restore Center's Pastor tells ABC7 they decided to leave their temporary home here as a result of a leaking roof and other electrical issues that had not been addressed.

The church had only been at this location for around six months. The locale itself was meant to be temporary while a new building nearby is completed.

One firefighter was transported to a hospital for a minor injury, CFD said. No civilian injuries were reported.

Chicago fire officials give an update on a fire in the Bridgeport neighborhood Monday morning.

Shortly before 11:30 a.m., CFD said the fire was struck out.