Chicago firefighters knew they had a large fire on the outbound Stevenson Expressway (I-55). Initially firefighters didn’t know whether they had a truck fire or a crash. Initially on scene, they reported they had two semi-trailer trucks on fire and two passenger vehicles on fire. Firefighters elevated the fire suppression response to a Still and Box Alarm and then a 2-11 Alarm fire. Since there are no fire hydrants on expressways, firefighters set up an inline operation with one fire engine at a hydrant, and one or more fire engines relaying the water from the hydrant to the scene.
An airport crash truck (ARFF) from Midway International Airport also responded to the scene to put foam on the fire.
One of the semi-trailer trucks contained paint. Firefighters reported that unknown vessels and chemicals were exploding, and requested a Level I Hazmat response to the scene. Firefighters measured the chemical reactivity and potential hazard of an unknown liquid that was running off from the burning paint truck, and worked to contain the runoff liquid from reaching stranded drivers on the Stevenson Expressway near the crash and waterways near the crash.
When the fires were extinguished, firefighters discovered a third passenger vehicle and fifth total vehicle involved in the crash.
The fifth vehicle — a minivan — was discovered in the wreckage with one person was dead inside. The driver of the minivan was unable to escape the crash and fire that resulted. That person’s identity has not been released.
Four drivers escaped the crash and fire on the outbound Stevenson Expressway just east of Cicero Avenue and also near Pulaski Road. The expressway was closed in both directions at the crash site for nearly three hours.
All lanes of northbound (inbound) I-55 were reopened by 4:00 p.m. Southbound (outbound) I-55 was expected to remain closed until at least 7 p.m. as the investigation and cleanup continued, but didn’t open until after 11:00 p.m.. Drivers meanwhile were detoured onto Pulaski.
Illinois State Police closed one direction of the Stevenson Expressway, a major Chicago-area expressway, after a fiery morning vehicle crash.
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