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Blaze Guts Lincoln Square Lanes Bowling Alley

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A huge blaze destroyed a 97-year-old bowling alley in the Lincoln Square neighborhood overnight.

The fire started around 1 a.m. at Lincoln Square Lanes, 4874 N. Lincoln Av. and while the Fire Department said it was put out by 4:15 a.m., crews remained on the scene dousing hot spots as of 6:30 a.m. The building also housed Matty K's Hardware on the first floor.

Dave Drehobl said it means a lot to him that Lincoln Square Lanes was as old as it was. He and his brothers and cousins bought it from his father three years ago, and put a lot of money into renovating the bowling alley. The Drehobl family has owned Lincoln Square Lanes for the past 30 years, but Dave Drehobl said he doesn't know what will happen next.

"All the important stuff is that the nostalgic, and the memories. You could rebuild it, but it's not going to be the same place," he said.

Drehobl said the bowling alley closed at midnight Sunday night, and the last employee left 10 minutes later. The Fire Department got the call about the fire less than 45 minutes later.


A Fire Department spokesman said the fire might have started in the bowling alley's grill. The fire was so intense, crews could only tackle the flames defensively, which means it was too dangerous to enter the building.

According to officials, flames quickly ripped through the building. When they arrived, flames already were shooting through the roof. The blaze was so intense, it was at one point elevated to a 3-11 alarm, requiring a significant number of crews and backup.

"It's terrible. I mean, it's absolutely terrible. Every time you think the fire's out, then it starts back again. Not that it matters, because it's trashed anyways. I mean, it's gone," Derhobl said.

Battling the blaze also proved confusing, and at one point a mayday call went out because a firefighter was missing. Special equipment was brought in, and roll calls took place, and that firefighter was located unharmed.

No one was injured in the fire, but for locals it was a hard sight to see. Lincoln Square Lanes opened in 1918, and was the oldest operating bowling alley in the city.

Jeff VanSleet worked at the lanes for over 20 years. He lives nearby and watching a place that has been a part of his life for so many years was a very emotional experience.

"I grew up in this neighborhood. I went to the bowling alley all my life. I worked there for like 20 years," he said. "This is very disappointing. I was just there last Thursday for dollar beer night, and it's a shame to see it go."

Matthew Kollar owns Matty K's Hardware store below the second story bowling alley, another neighborhood fixture. Kollar and the Drehobls aren't sure what they'll do next. Many hope they'll rebuild.

"We love being here and we love being a part of this neighborhood and we want to continue to be a part of the neighborhood, but I don't know what that is right now," Kollar said.

The roof of the building collapsed during the fire, and the building was gutted by flames. The owners believe the building will be torn down tomorrow.

During the fire ComEd was forced to shut off service to some 600 customers in the area.

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