Watch CBS News

Grocery Store Owner Says Alarm Went Off Prior To Blaze

UPDATED: 1:12 p.m.

(CBS) -- A neighborhood grocery store in the South Irving Park neighborhood was gutted early Monday, after an extra-alarm blaze tore through the building, causing part of the roof to collapse.

The fire started around 3:30 a.m. at Windy City Produce, at 3340 N. Pulaski Rd.

Fire Department District Chief William Vogt said, when firefighters arrived, the store was fully engulfed in flames, and extra personnel were called in to help extinguish the blaze.

"They made an interior attack to go inside and see if they could put the fire out," he said. "It was up in the trusses, which is very dangerous for firefighters. At that time, the chief at that time pulled everybody out of the structure, because of the danger."

The owner Joe Lucchetto says he was notified by an alarm service, ADT, that a motion detector went off in the store around 11:45 p.m. All employees had followed procedure and locked up and gone for the night at 11:15 p.m., he says. Lucchetto says Chicago police checked and made sure the store was secure.

Then, about 3:45 a.m., Lucchetto says he received a call that his store was on fire and when he arrived there shortly afterwards, he saw that it had gone up in flames and that only a shell was left.

"I know for a fact that the ATM…from the front they told me was in the back, room busted open," Lucchetto said.


Police, fire and federal investigators are trying to determine what happened. ATF spokesman Tom Ahern confirms investigators are looking into whether burglars may have used a blowtorch to try to get into a safe.

Ahern says it's not unusual for ATF to work with Chicago Police Bomb and Arson and Chicago Fire investigators on commercial fires.

Firefighters called in a 2-11 alarm to bring approximately 100 personnel to the scene. The 2-11 alarm was struck out at 5:30 a.m., but firefighters remained on the scene for at least an hour, to keep an eye on hotspots.

Velez said the fire caused extensive damage, including a partial collapse of the store's roof.

No injuries were reported.

Building owner Chris Verveniotis, meanwhile, says he and his partners have owned the building for 35 years and opened it as Windy City Produce. Joe Lucchetto says he has owned the store for the last 10 years.

Lucchetto says he would like to re-build and re-open his store as soon as it's humanly possible. He's hoping in the next 6-12 months. He says there are more than 20 employees who count on a job at the store.

He and some of his employees waited for a while in a nearby Subway sandwich shop watching investigators work.

Longtime customer Johnny Celiknal, says seeing the fire from across the street, where he lives, made him "start to cry". He says the people who own the store and work there are "wonderful people".

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.