The cause of the fire that broke out on Lake Street Tuesday morning is under investigation. Two buildings were left with severe damage, while the fire caused smoke damage to three others.
The Oak Park Fire Department discovered smoke and flames coming from the rear of Delia’s Kitchen, 1034 Lake St., after being alerted to the blaze at 9:39 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 23.
One Oak Park firefighter sustained a minor injury while battling the flames, but no patrons, employees, customers or apartment tenants were hurt, according to Oak Park spokesman David Powers.
Delia’s Kitchen and the apartments above it were evacuated, as was the nail salon next door. The village of Oak Park reported the Red Cross was contacted to provide support for the tenants of the four affected apartments. Both buildings were severely damaged. Several other neighboring businesses were also evacuated.
“I’m still in shock,” said Veronica Ciobotaru, owner of Delia’s Kitchen.
Lake Theatre at 1022 Lake St., Jerusalem Café at 1030 Lake St. and Lou Malnati’s at 1038 Lake St. all sustained smoke damage but were open to customers the day after the fire.
Delia’s Kitchen did not fare so well, however. The 12-year-old restaurant was completely destroyed in the fire, according to Ciobataru.
“I lost everything,” said Ciobataru. “I feel like I just lost the love of my life.”
While the grief she feels is keen, Ciobataru told Wednesday Journal her next step is helping her staff find employment. She is unsure at this moment whether Delia’s Kitchen will be able to reopen.
Crowdfunding campaigns have been started for the restaurant and for the people who live in the apartments upstairs. About $1,200 has been raised as of Nov. 24 in a GoFundMe campaign for one of the families that lived in the building. A GoFundMe created by Joyce Webster for Delia’s Kitchen has amassed $14,200 of its $15,000 goal also as of Nov. 24.
The fire raged for roughly two hours Tuesday morning before firefighters were able to extinguish it around 11:30 a.m. The village reported 75 firefighters were on the scene at the height of the fire.
Fire departments from Bellwood, Berwyn, Cicero, Elmwood Park, Forest Park, Franklin Park, Maywood, Melrose Park, North Riverside, River Forest, River Grove and Stickney turned out to help the Oak Park Fire Department.