HOT CHOCO­LATE

Flames shoot through roof of Blom­mer fac­tory

Chicago Sun-Times - - CITYBEAT -

De­spite an ex­tra- alarm fire tear­ing through the roof of the Blom­mer Choco­late Com­pany’s River West fac­tory, its fa­mil­iar scent of co­coa that so of­ten wafts down­town was con­spic­u­ously ab­sent Tues­day af­ter­noon.

“It usu­ally de­pends on when the batches go in or what they’re mak­ing dur­ing that shift,” said Mar­garet Sofio, Blom­mer’s “chief peo­ple of­fi­cer.”

Sofio was among a throng of em­ploy­ees and cu­ri­ous gawk­ers hud­dled across the street from the fac­tory at 600 W. Kinzie as dozens of fire­fight­ers cy­cled through the build­ing.

An hour ear­lier, heavy black smoke and flames were shoot­ing out of a room on the north­ern por­tion of the fac­tory’s roof when crews were called at 1: 44 p. m., Chicago Fire Depart­ment District Chief TimWalsh said.

The fire was up­graded to a 2- 11 blaze, bring­ing 160 fire­fight­ers and paramedics to the scene, Walsh said. They used three lad­der trucks to get to the top of the fac­tory and douse flames that scorched the west face of the build­ing, send­ing out bil­low­ing clouds of steam and smoke.

The fire was ex­tin­guished within an hour. About 200 peo­ple inside the fac­tory evac­u­ated safely, Walsh said. No one was hurt.

“We’re all ac­counted for, which is ex­cel­lent, and now we’re wait­ing to hear the next step,” said Kathy Kull, Blom­mer’s cor­po­rate hu­man re­sources di­rec­tor.

Work­ers were later sent home, and sec­ond- shift em­ploy­ees were be­ing told to stay home, Sofio said.

“We were pre­pared for this,” floor worker Lee Ginns said. “We have fire drills all the time.”

Tues­day’s fire was the sec­ond at Blom­mer in two weeks. A smaller fire broke out at Blom­mer on Nov. 3 in a choco­late kiln on the op­po­site side of the roof.

Fire in­ves­ti­ga­tors said it ap­peared to be some sort of me­chan­i­cal fire.

“This build­ing is full of ma­chines for roast­ing co­coa and mak­ing choco­late,” Walsh said.

The cause is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

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