Harry’s Lumber Fire: Arlington Heights Resident Helps His Apartment Tenants While His Norwood Park Roofing Business Is Threatened

VIDEO (57 minutes): Chicago firefighters battle to contain extra alarm fire at lumber business to prevent spread to the west to commercial roofing business and apartment next-door (Operations on the west side start at about elapsed time of 20 minutes).

Arlington Heights resident Paul Domian was at first relieved Tuesday morning when the lumber business at Harry’s Lumber Company next-door to his commercial roofing business, Domain Corporation, appeared to have a serious fire that was extinguished. He grew up in the Norwood Park neighborhood and recalled a 5-11 Alarm fire that destroyed the wood lumber building on October 19, 1990 in the same location.

Chicago police and firefighters and paramedics responded about 4:00 a.m. Tuesday to the fire at Harry’s Lumber 6220 North Northwest Highway Chicago, and immediately discovered smoke showing. Firefighters arrived to find smoke coming from the roof of Harry’s Lumber Company building. Smoke was also coming from several overhead doors. The fire operations was initially defensive, but then firefighters went inside and extinguished the fire.

A lot of fire was reported inside the building. The fire department response was upgraded to a Still and Box at about 4:02 a.m. and a 2-11 alarm at about 4:26 a.m. Hose lines were placed across Northwest Highway and Metra trains were even stopped just before 5:00 a.m. near Norwood Park for a short time. But the fire was believed to have been extinguished by about 5:24 a.m.

Firefighters enter overhead door at extra alarm fire at Harry’s Lumber Company on Northwest Highway in Chicago (PHOTO CREDIT: Chicago Fire Media).

At 7:00 a.m. Paul Domian was at work at his commercial roofing business next-door to the lumber business. Not long after his commute from Arlington Heights to his Norwood Park business, he heard someone yell that the fire was starting up again. Firefighters returned, but this time the fire was quickly raging through the metal building filled with lumber.

Firefighters immediately set up a Tower Ladder at the front northeast corner of the building. A reserve snorkel was set up to the southeast of the lumber building. Another Tower Ladder was setup near the west side of the building of Domain Corporation — just 2 1/2 feet to the west of Harry’s Lumber Company building. Dozens of fire engines parked near the area brought extra firefighters or served to pump water to the Tower Ladder truck and snorkel. One fire engine was positioned so it’s deck gun could supply a steady stream of water at the 2 1/2-foot void between the buildings and prevent the heat from igniting the apartment building and commercial building that Domian owns next-door to the lumber building. Also, a master stream shot over Domian’s business into the burning lumber business next-door. A main ladder from a ladder truck was also raised to the roof of the apartment building that Domian owns. Firefighters used the roof of the apartment building to hit the lumber business with another stream of water at close range. But they were also battling to protect the building where they were standing.

Domian said he had just fully rented the apartment building, but today he was concerned with evacuating the college-aged girls that rented an apartment on the second floor right next to Harry’s Lumber Company building. The apartment was the girls’ first place to live away from their parents. Domian and some workers from the business rushed to the apartment building to make sure all the tenants were evacuated. The girls were evacuated safely, but Domian and his workers’ tasks were not complete. Inside the the roofing business building were plenty of flammable materials — some of them right next to the wall adjacent to the lumber business. Domian and his workers transferred the flammable materials out of the building to the parking lot away from the fire. Roofing tars, gasoline cans and other fuel tanks and materials were all removed before heat from the fire next-door had a chance to ignite inside Domain Corporation’s building.

Firefighters would battle the fire at Harry’s Lumber Company all day and into the night. Piles of lumber were hard to access in the metal building. Now all Paul Domian could do is wait to get the damage report to his business. At least 20 firefighters also laddered themselves up to the roof of the Domain Corporation building just to the south of the apartment building. He saw several firefighters he knew from growing up together in Norwood Park. They greeted each other and kept on working — firefighters working on protecting property, and Domian working on his strategy for his response to the damage. He glanced at one of his trucks that was due to ship roofing materials up north to another state. One step forward, two steps backward. But with optimism, he believes in two steps forward and one step backward.

Video showing the pre-dawn 2-11 alarm fire and the 3-11 alarm fire after sunrise at Harry’s Lumber company on Northwest Highway near Harlem Avenue (VIDEO CREDIT: Steve Reddick).

Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at Harry’s Lumber (VIDEO CREDIT: Larry Shapiro).

Second video of Chicago 3-11 alarm fire at Harry’s Lumber (VIDEO CREDIT: Larry Shapiro).

Chicago firefighters on the roof of Paul Domian’s apartment building working to prevent Harry’s Lumber Company fire from spreading to Domian’s apartment and commercial building to the west of the lumber business.

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