Forest Park police and fire personnel are investigating an early morning fire that left the popular Skrine Chops restaurant on Madison Street in Forest Park in ruins Friday morning.
A Forest Park patrol sergeant radioed an alert of a fire at the rear of the building at 7230 Madison at 3:37 a.m. Two minutes later a mutual aid call was sent to Oak Park and River Forest departments.
At 3:40 a.m. the first Forest Park fire unit on scene noted “the rear porch is fully engulfed” and called for a box alarm. That brought in fire trucks from three additional MABAS Division 11 communities, including North Riverside, Stickney and Cicero.
When daylight came the rear of the restaurant was a charred ruin. The interior appeared to be completely gutted. The second-floor ceiling had collapsed and was visible through burned-out windows.
The two-story building immediately west of the restaurant appeared to sustain water damage to the second-floor apartment. That damage did not appear to extend to the first floor commercial area, which houses a shuttered antique dealer.
That second floor tenant was reportedly alerted and evacuated safely after the fire started.
Restaurant owner and Oak Park resident Steve Skrine was notified just before 4 a.m. that his restaurant was ablaze. Skrine, who was on scene outside the business throughout the morning, would say only that he had no idea what might have caused the blaze.
As of 9:30 a.m., Madison was still closed between Harlem Avenue and Circle Avenue, as firefighters used a ladder truck to put water on the neighboring roof as other firefighters inspected.
Meanwhile, fire investigators spent the morning combing through the building searching for a possible cause of the fire.
By 11 a.m. Madison had reopened.
While there is no official word on what caused the blaze, one official source said it appears the blaze originated in the rear of the building. Another official said the roof had burned through.
Unconfirmed reports were that lightning may have triggered the porch fire. Powerful thunder and lightning was occurring around 3:30 a.m. Friday in Forest Park.