Massive fire destroys Newly Weds Foods factory on Northwest Side; Firefighters continue to battle hotspots

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Employees at Newly Weds Foods tried to salvage what they could Wednesday after the massive fire that tore through the food processing plant the night before.

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A massive fire destroyed a food factory on Chicago's Northwest Side Tuesday, and firefighters remained on the scene Wednesday morning to put out hotspots.

Just seeing the water running out of the place. I've been working here for 32 years. Just to see something like this, I've never seen it," employee Kenneth Collins said.

As the block-long building burned, heavy clouds of thick black smoke poured out of the building, towering over the Hermosa neighborhood.

"As we pulled up, we already had the streets blocked off, and just a lot of smoke. Lot of smoke," resident Jeff Kowalski said.

At one point, the Chicago Fire Department had a third of the department on the scene. Fire officials said parts of the building were still smoldering Wednesday morning.

WATCH: Food factory completely destroyed by massive fire
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Thick, black smoke could be seen for miles as the fire raged for several hours at Newly Weds Foods in the Belmont Gardens neighborhood.

Officials said the factory produces mixed baking ingredients, including cooking oil and bread crumbs, which may have helped fuel the fire. They believe the fire likely started in a piece of drying equipment. The main kitchen area is a total loss.

"It started in the central cooking area, and it went up into the roof area and spread both laterally on the roof area and the extension was very quick, very vital," said Chicago Fire Commissioner Richard Ford.

The Chicago Fire Department had a third of the department on scene when the fire broke out in the main kitchen area.

John Seely, the vice president of Newly Weds Foods, said the fire tore through the back part of the factory first, then spread.

"We have a lot of damage on part of the campus with one of the factories, but it will be repaired," Seely said. "We have many different factories in the U.S. where we can make the products so we will just shift production around."

No serious injuries were reported, but one firefighter sprained his knee. Nearly 200 employees work at the facility and all were able to get out okay.

Seely credits a good safety plan and a quick response from Chicago fire.

"We have a lot of damage on part of the campus with one of the factories but it will be repaired," Seely said. "The CFD were very responsive and everybody got out orderly and no one was hurt or injured so everybody is safe."

The nearby Metra Healy station was impacted by the fire and the Milwaukee District North Line was halted in both directions for a time Tuesday.
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