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Officials: vagrants started Chicago Heights warehouse fire

Firefighters battle warehouse fire 1600 block East End Avenue Chicago Heights Illinois Tuesday February 26 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times

Firefighters battle a warehouse fire in the 1600 block of East End Avenue in Chicago Heights, Illinois, Tuesday, February 26, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 28, 2013 6:50PM



Vagrants were responsible for setting a fire that gutted a vacant 144,000-square-foot warehouse Tuesday, according to Chicago Heights Fire Chief Jamie Angell.

Angell said his department responded to the fire at 1:37 p.m. in the 1600 block of Union Avenue. About 125 firefighters were called to the scene, and the fire was extinguished by 7 p.m.

Angell said investigators determined that the fire was started by homeless people in the southeast corner of the building. No one was injured.

“In our town, we have a lot of homeless people and they do get in and try to stay warm,” Angell said, adding that a mattress, shoes and food were found in the building.

He said 35 to 40 departments were called to the warehouse, which once was occupied by Allied Wire but had been vacant for 15 years. Firefighters from five departments handled all other Chicago Heights calls while the city’s firefighters extinguished the fire.

“It was definitely a lot of flame,” Angell said.

Angell said the fire had “plenty of room” to expand because the warehouse’s roof had collapsed years ago, giving the fire more access to oxygen.

Smoke from the fire forced a nearby polling place located inside the Golden Towers Senior City residential facility to move to Lincoln School, 1520 Center Ave. Five election judges had to move.

According to Angell, seven to 10 residents of Golden Towers also relocated due to the smoke that was drifting into the building from the fire. Angell said 59 people live there but didn’t want to move.

As a precaution, all Golden Towers residents were told to stay on the lower level until the fire was extinguished, Angell said.



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