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Extra-Alarm Fire Extinguished In North Lawndale

Updated 09/23/14 - 5:05 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Chicago firefighters spent several hours Tuesday morning putting out a stubborn fire in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli reports the fire started around 5:40 a.m. at a banquet hall in the 4000 block of West Ogden Avenue. It eventually was raised to a 3-11 alarm fire, bringing more than 140 firefighters to the scene.

While the 3-11 alarm was struck out at about 8 a.m., crews remained on the scene at 11 a.m. to douse hot spots and prevent the fire from flaring up again.

Flames shot through the roof of the banquet hall as firefighters used aerial ladders to pour water on the building. Plumes of smoke traveled so far, they caused residents of a Gold Coast high rise 7 miles away to leave their units, because they thought their own building was on fire.

CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot reports all that remains of the building now is the shell. The city ordered an emergency demolition because the building had buckled and it was too dangerous to stay up.

The venerable brick building housed a recording studio in addition to the banquet hall. Those businesses were gutted by the intense fire.

Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas said the fire was so intense, crews had no choice but to stay out of the building, and fight the flames from outside.

"The initial crews that got on scene, they were confronted with a heavy volume of pushing smoke. Once they began the process of opening up doors and windows, the fire began to rapidly progress," he said. "So, at that point it became too dangerous. There was no way we were going to be able to make an interior attack, so we had to pull the guys out."

It was a tough fire made even tougher by what you couldn't see.

"You had a tremendous amount of fire. It just didn't show itself upon the initial arrival," McNicholas said.

One firefighter was slightly injured while helping put out the blaze and is expected to be ok. McNicholas says the fire appears to have started on the first floor.

Although no one was in the burning building, people living inside adjacent buildings had to evacuate; some to a nearby laundromat.

Cleo and Ola Newkirk were sleeping when their daughter sounded the alarm.

"My daughter came and told me that it was two or three doors away from where I was," Cleo said. He added he didn't have time to feel worried.

As of 11 a.m., the Newkirks were still waiting to hear if their home was damaged.

Several neighboring businesses were unable to open Tuesday morning, because power had been knocked out after the fire.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

The owner of the building says he has no insurance.

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