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Smoky fire breaks out in kitchen of Chicago's Smith & Wollensky at Marina City

Fire sends smoke through vents at Chicago's Smith & Wollensky steakhouse
Fire sends smoke through vents at Chicago's Smith & Wollensky steakhouse 02:19

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A firefighter was taken to the hospital early Friday evening after a fire broke out at the iconic Smith & Wollensky steakhouse at Marina City.

The fire broke out in the kitchen at the iconic steakhouse, which is located right on the north bank of the Chicago River at 318 N. State St. Chicago Fire Department officials said the fire traveled through the ventilation system.

There was concern that smoke could possibly billow out into the residential Marina Towers as well.

The fire was called in around 5:15 p.m. Marina City and State Street nearby were lit up with siren lights, and a haze of smoke clouded the air.

Dozens of firefighters were seen going in and out of Smith & Wollensky carrying fire equipment.

"So upon arrival, the companies did an excellent job in containing a fire to the kitchen area," said CFD District Chief Shun T. Haynes. "However, the fire did travel within the duct work – with about 200 feet of duct work – and extended all the way to the river."

The fire appeared to be out by just before 6 p.m., but fire officials still called a still-and-box alarm for more equipment and manpower to assist. A Chicago fire boat also responded to the scene.

"We had a large value of smoke that was spreading not only throughout the restaurant, but there's a common area that extends from the restaurant that goes to the residential area - and it was a lot of smoke within an area too," Haynes said.

Alarms went off in both towers of Marina City.  

Meanwhile, the smoke coming out of the building was also visible from the Chicago River.

"We were taking a ride on the water taxi, so what we saw was from the river," said witness Lynn Edgar, "and we saw lots of black smoke billowing out - a lot more than you'd get from a small kitchen fire."

Smith & Wollensky employee Carlos Gramado was working in the kitchen when the fire broke out. He was still unclear late Friday how it started.

Gramado said the smoke consumed the kitchen area, and everything went dark. Staff and customers were quickly evacuated to safety.

One firefighter was injured. CBS 2 cameras observed him being placed on a stretcher.

He was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Haynes said he did a walk-through of the restaurant, and there did not appear to be any fire damage.

The cause of the fire was under investigation late Friday.

A spokesperson for the restaurant said the fire was quickly reported and contained:

"With swift action our management team successfully evacuated staff and guests to safety without incident as the Chicago Fire Department extinguished the fire. Our thoughts are with the one firefighter that suffered minor injury and/or smoke inhalation as we understand it. Investigation into the cause is currently ongoing."

The restaurant will remain closed through the weekend for assessment and cleanup.   

The Marina City location of Smith & Wollensky opened in 1998. Chicago culinary icon Hans Aeschbacher, who passed away on Thursday, was the first executive chef.

The first Smith & Wollensky steakhouse opened in the Midtown East section of Manhattan in New York City in 1977. 

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