By Bob Uphues
Unattended burning candles appear to have been the cause of a fire that destroyed a second-floor apartment and damaged the business below it, Big Corner Tavern, 8405 Cermak Road in North Riverside, on the afternoon of April 28.
No one was hurt, but fire gutted the upstairs apartment and water and smoke damaged the bar, which remains closed and likely will take weeks to repair.
Frank Amanti, manager of Big Corner Tavern, said about 20 people were inside the bar at 5:30 p.m., when two females came running downstairs from the apartment, yelling to call 911. According to the police report, three people -- a 16-year-old girl, a 21-year-old woman and a 21-year-old man -- were in the apartment at the time the fire started.
"Most of the fire was in front," said Amanti, who added that when everyone inside evacuated they could see smoke "billowing" from the upper floor.
North Riverside Fire Chief Tom Gaertner said the fire started in a bedroom on the west side of the building and spread throughout the apartment.
"The whole second floor was engulfed," Gaertner said, who added two cats perished in the fire.
Firefighters from numerous neighboring suburbs responded to the box alarm. It took about a half hour to extinguish the flames. Personnel were on the scene for about two hours, Gaertner said, putting out hot spots and investigating the incident.
While the investigation hasn't closed, said Gaertner, signs pointed to candles in the bedroom being the cause of the fire.
This story has been changed to correct the time the fire was reported.