Chicago fire crews battle massive blaze at West Town pallet yard, hazmat situation declared

ByABC7 Chicago Digital Team and Ravi Baichwal WLS logo
Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Massive blaze breaks out at West Town business, hazmat declared
Chicago fire crews battled a massive fire at a West Town pallet yard on West Hubbard Street. A hazmat situation was declared around 7:30 p.m.

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Hundreds of Chicago firefighters battled a massive blaze at a commercial business in the city's West Town neighborhood Tuesday evening.

Chicago Fire Department First District Chief Jim McDonough said the call for the fire in the 2000-block of West Hubbard Street first came in just after 5:45 p.m.

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The fire broke out at a pallet company that has an industrial space comprising two-story front office area and then a massive single story warehouse that held approximately 20,000 wooden pallets at the time the fire broke out, McDonough said.

The fire initially broke out in the back side of the building, in the warehouse where the most wood was. McDonough said strong winds from the south helped the fire spread rapidly, leaving firefighters at a disadvantage when they arrived at the scene.

"That fire created its own wind. It was windy enough, but once that fire started rolling, it created its own wind. These guys worked their butts off to keep this thing at its original fire building," McDonough said.

Chicago Fire Department officials gave an update on a massive blaze that broke out in a pallet yard's warehouse in West Town Tuesday evening.

The flames also caused the warehouse roof to collapse.

The fire department declared a hazmat situation as a precaution the site shortly after 7:30 p.m., due to the unknown nature of the materials burning in the building.

The hazmat will remain in place until they have more information on those materials and any risks they could pose. Police officers at the scene warned the crowds of spectators to be prepared move a moment's notice, should the winds change direction.

Hundreds of CFD responders poured water on the buildings to the east and west of the pallet company and were able to spare them from the fire spreading, but the pallet company is a total loss.

Eighteen employees were at the site at the time of the fire, and were able to escape without injury. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries and were taken for treatment but are expected to be fine, McDonough said.

Smoke from the fire could be seen and smelled for miles, as far north as Edgewater.

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Kim Richardson and Shannon Saar were in awe over the sight of flames and plumes of smoke billowing into the sky. They said the smoke was overwhelming, even from the inside of their car.

"We couldn't believe the smoke, and we saw pictures online of just like flames and everything like that. It was outrageous," Richardson said. "I had to roll up my windows. We could barely breathe."

They say they saw the smoke from as far north as Edgewater.

"It's intense to just be around. You can it see for miles, literally," Saar said. "Suddenly, the smoke just hit us. The smell. Just a wave of aroma."

The Metra UP-North, Milwaukee-North and Milwaukee-West lines were all stopped for several hours due to the heat and flames, but service has since resumed with significant delays.

McDonough said CFD expects to remain at the scene overnight to fight hot spots and hidden fires under the collapsed roof, but the worst of the flames had been extinguished by 9 p.m.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.