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Ice forms as firefighters battle Chicago's worst blaze 'in many years'

Firefighters in Chicago spent the night battling a five-alarm blaze in single-digit temperatures. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

A massive fire ripped through a warehouse in Chicago's South Side Tuesday night, as firefighters were hampered by bone-chilling temperatures so low that water froze on their uniforms.

The 170 firefighters on the scene battled the elements on two fronts as the monster blaze consumed a warehouse building, endangering an adjacent structure, while temperatures dipped into the single-digits.

Photos taken at the scene showed flames towering above the abandoned warehouse as icicles formed on a fire hose. One photo showed a firefighter with his jacket, hat and gloves caked in chunks of ice.

“This is a major fire,” the Chicago Fire Department posted on Twitter, adding that the scale of the response -- five alarms plus two “special” calls for additional trucks -- was “extremely rare.”

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Icicles form on a fire hose from single digit temperatures as Chicago firefighters battle a five-alarm blaze in a warehouse on the city's South Side, on Jan. 23, in Chicago.

The fire briefly jumped to a neighboring building, causing concern, according to reports. The adjacent structure is a printing company, the building's owner told NBCChicago.com. He was worried that certain chemicals inside could explode.

Firefighters were also concerned about a nearby fuel pumping station east of the warehouse.

The fire department's messages on Twitter highlighted the intensity of the blaze: “Rear is collapsed. … North end of building starting to fall. … (The fire department) will be here for hours.”

The department declared the fire under control early Wednesday. By then, the warehouse was sheathed in a thick layer of ice.

One firefighter was taken to a hospital with a “minor back issue,” fire officials said.

It is unclear what caused the blaze.

"We haven't had a fire this big in many years," Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford told NBCChicago.com.

Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

Chicago firefighters battle a five-alarm blaze in single-digit temperatures at a warehouse on the city's south side early Wednesday.

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