Police searching for roofers after Northwest Side strip mall fire


November 15, 2013 6:58PM

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Updated: December 17, 2013 6:18AM

Authorities continued searching Saturday for the roofers who were using propane torches before a raging fire broke out in a Northwest Side strip mall and destroyed three businesses the day before.

The Chicago Police Department’s Bomb and Arson Unit is looking into the matter but is not treating the incident as a criminal investigation, police said.

Authorities do not believe the roofers, who fled the scene, had malicious intent as they did work on the roof above the For Eyes optical store, in the 3100 block of West Peterson Avenue. “We have not been able to interview them [roofers] yet,” Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said Saturday, explaining that police had since taken over the probe into what started the fire in the strip mall.

Although the fire was struck out by 6 p.m. Friday, there were a couple of “rekindles” over night, Langford said.

Feras Dajani, 34, was inside his family-owned furniture store about 4 p.m. Friday with about two other customers when he noticed the flames and smoke coming from the roof. Then, after rushing out, he watched not just his store, Mid-America Furniture, but the neighboring For Eyes and an American Mattress obliterated by a raging fire.

No one was injured in the blaze, but large heaps of dark smoke billowed from the strip mall throughout the neighborhood for miles.

“I just stood outside and watched it,” Dajani said. “I didn’t feel like I could leave.”

A firewall between American Mattress and a Supercuts stopped the roaring fire from spreading any further, officials said.

After two hours, the fire was extinguished, as dozens watched. Traffic was deadlocked for miles as 207 firefighters from 61 units responded to the blaze.

When firefighters initially responded, the fire was “raging,” said Langford.

“They couldn’t fight it (inside the business). They fought it externally,” Langford said of the firefighters’ efforts.

All that was left besides the charred businesses was a flood of water from the large fire response.

Dajani, who runs the store with his mother, said his customers are loyal and most are from the West Ridge neighborhood.

He said he plans to rebuild the 26-year-old business.

“We got a lot of work ahead of us,” Dajani said.

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