Fire chief: No injuries or fatalities in Chicago Heights fire

2013-02-26T21:00:00Z 2013-02-27T00:22:11Z Fire chief: No injuries or fatalities in Chicago Heights fireElvia Malagon elvia.malagon@nwi.com (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com
February 26, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Firefighters were still battling a blaze at 8:30 p.m. in an abandoned warehouse but Fire Chief Jamie Angell said there were no reported injuries or fatalities Tuesday night.

He said it appears the fire was started by a homeless person living in office space inside the building, but firefighters didn't find anyone inside. The building did not have any gas or power, which is why officials think the fire was started by the homeless person trying to keep warm.

Angell said firefighters continued to put out hot spots around the building about 8:30 p.m. He said the fire did not spread to surrounding buildings.

The fire was across the street from the Golden Towers Senior Center at 1706 East End Ave., which was a polling place for Precinct 46 in Tuesday's special Congressional primary, according to a release from the Cook County clerk's office.

The fire caused the polling place to be moved to Lincoln Elementary School, 1520 Center Ave.

Voters went to the polls to elect a representative in the 2nd Congressional District to replace Jesse Jackson Jr., who resigned. Robin Kelly won the Democratic primary, the Associated Press reported.

Courtney Greve, of the Cook County clerk's office, said Lincoln School is the closest polling place to the senior center, and signs were put up informing people of the switch.

The election judges and Golden Tower residents were evacuated by the Chicago Heights Fire Department, the clerk's office said. Greve said the fire did not affect the counting of ballots and the new polling place did not have to extend its hours past the 7 p.m. closing time.

About 125 firefighters battled the fire at the abandoned warehouse on the 1600 block of Union Avenue. The fire started at about 3 p.m., said Lisa Aprati, chief of staff for Chicago Heights.

Aprati did not have information about how or where the fire started.

On Tuesday evening, heavy smoke could be seen around the industrial area. The front of the boarded brick building was destroyed during the blaze.

Calvin Peterson, 63, said he saw the flames and smoke early in the afternoon and thought his lodge, the Robert S. Abbott Lodge No. 1258, was on fire. The lodge is about a block away from the warehouse.

"I rushed straight here," said Peterson, who was eating his dinner inside the lodge. "The closer I got, I saw smoke going south and knew it wasn't here."

He said he saw flames and heavy smoke coming from the top of the warehouse. The closing of Precinct 46 didn't impact him because he voted at a different location.

Gary Perez, 17, lives nearby the warehouse and said he saw the fire as he and his friends were coming home from eating lunch.

"We thought it was the weather," he said. "Then we crossed and that's when we saw the flames."

Greve said the polling place had to be immediately closed as Fire Department officials closed off several surrounding streets, making it impossible for would-be voters to get to the polling place.

Times correspondent Gregory Tejeda contributed to this report.

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