Lack of water slowed firefighting at Far South Side steel mill

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FOX 32 NEWS - A factory fire on Chicago's South Side created a lot of smoke and a lot of concern in the neighborhood around the Koch building Monday afternoon.

Residents heard several booms coming from the facility, which is located in the 10700 block of South Burley along the Calumet River.

“And I heard a big explosion, didn't know what it was but it sounded like and I look at my wife, and she looked at me, and we said that sounds like an explosion,” said Martin Morales, who lives nearby.

When the fire department arrived, the challenges of battling the blaze prompted them to call for the fire boat, which was an hour away at Navy Pier, as well as extra engines to help pump water on the fire because there were no hydrants nearby.

“We had to go with an in line operation, that's where we put a fire engine on the hydrant and the pumps into another fire engine, into another fire engine and so on and down the line and then we have the attack live inside the building. So on this we had, I think, we had five engines pumping in line to provide us with water inside the structure,” said District Chief Paul Foertsch with the Chicago Fire Department.

When firefighters got inside, they realized the fire was contained to a front end loader which held some kind of metal material in the bucket that had caught fire in the middle of the massive building, which was estimated to be 150 feet wide by 600 feet long.

No one was inside and no one was injured. The fire department said the explosions did not present any danger, because it was not any dangerous material that blew up.

“It's the four tires that were on the front end loader, that when they heated up they just blew. We have that every time we fight car fires too, the tires will blow, so those are the initial explosions that we heard,” District Chief Foertsch said.
Early concerns that the building might have contained petcoke proved unfounded. But the fire department called for a hazmat response just as a precaution.