Extra-alarm fire at Chicago’s Old Main Post Office

CHICAGO -- Firefighters were called to the scene of an extra-alarm fire at the Old Main Post Office in the Loop Monday, snarling traffic downtown and on the Ike as they struck out a fire there for the second time in less than six months.

Just before 10 a.m. Monday morning, smoke came pouring out of the historic building, and about 120 firefighters and EMT crews responded to the scene. Firefighters said they had to shatter some of the building's windows to let the smoke out, and broken glass was falling onto the streets below.  Streets were blocked to keep drivers or pedestrians from being hurt by the falling glass.

Luckily, fire officials previously planned how to fight a fire there, and they had experience with another fire there back in July. Firefighters located the latest fire on the 7th floor of the building, and put it out quickly.

The fire turned out to be coming from a pile of oily rags that caught fire and filled the 8th and 9th floors with dense, black smoke. Luckily, the post office closed in 1995 and remains vacant. Construction crews have recently been onsite for a restoration and renovation project that's expected to include a rooftop park and landscaping along the Chicago River.  Some workers were inside when the fire started, but they were able to get out safely.

Construction on the building first began in the 1920s and it's on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1932 the 9-story building was the world's largest, but by the turn of the century it was vacant, and over the years has fallen into disrepair.  It was sold in 2016 and is in the process of being renovated. The fires haven't helped, but construction should continue.

An investigation is underway, including looking into what was happening on 7th floor when the fire started.