Vacant Gas Station Fire with Hazardous Chemical Calcium Peroxide Stored On Site Injures 3 Firefighters on Northwest Highway Park Ridge

Park Ridge police and firefighter/paramedics responded about 5:08 p.m. Wednesday July 17, 2019 to a report of a fire in a vacant gas station near Northwest Highway and Oakton Street. Within a minute the building was identified as a vacant gas station and former auto repair station at 969 North Northwest Highway — the former Park Ridge Marathon station.

The Park Ridge Fire Department Battalion Chief called for a Working Fire Response seconds into his route to the fire when he saw black smoke rising from the scene. Firefighters from Niles were initially called to automatically assist Park Ridge firefighter/paramedics. The first firefighters arrived to find all three service bays engulfed with fire, and fire breaking through the roof.

With the Working Fire Response, firefighters from Des Plaines, Morton Grove, Prospect Heights, Schiller Park, and Rosemont were also assigned to the fire.

The fire department response for the vacant gas station fire was upgraded to a Box Alarm at 5:20 p.m. bringing firefighters from Schiller Park, Wheeling, Skokie, Deerfield, Elk Grove Village, and Morton Grove. Firefighters staged in the block of 800 North Northwest Highway.

Firefighters from Evanston, Northbrook, and Buffalo Grove were assigned to cover in Park Ridge to respond to any additional fire, rescue or EMS calls in Park Ridge.

Initially it was reported that three firefighters suffered minor chemical burns while fighting the fire, and were transported for medical treatment; but later it was confirmed that one firefighter from Niles and one firefighter from Schiller Park suffered minor chemical burns. Both were treated and released at Lutheran General Hospital. Firefighters also discovered that a large amount of chemicals were stored inside the gas station, which has been vacant for about 10 years. As they were investigating the identity of the chemicals stored, they learned that the chemical product may have been delivered as late as Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Fire Command also requested at about 6:04 p.m. that a hazmat tech team leader and adviser respond to the scene. A Hazmat Box Alarm was requested about 6:19 p.m. when it was identified that an unknown chemical product was causing coughing symptoms, and when it was discovered that an unknown chemical was possibly running off into the area drainage and sewer systems.

The Hazmat Box Alarm brought firefighters, hazmat technicians or chiefs from Norwood Park, North Maine, Mount Prospect, Skokie, Park Ridge, Lincolnwood, Niles, and Des Plaines. A Hazmat Decontamination Unit was also dispatched to the scene. By 6:27 p.m. it was determined that the chemical product stored at the gas station would require decontamination of personnel. A total of seven ambulances were assigned to the scene. With assistance from the Park Ridge Building Department, the chemical product was identified as calcium peroxide by about 6:34 p.m. Chicago Fire Department’s Squad 7 from O’Hare International Airport was also dispatched about 6:44 p.m. About 90,000 LBS of calcium peroxide is believed to have been stored at the vacant gas station.

According to CAMEO Chemicals, calcium peroxide is classified as an Explosive and a Strong Oxidizing Agent. Calcium peroxide is known to increase the severity of fire and can cause explosions of containers. When calcium peroxide is contacted by water; a chemical reaction releases oxygen, which supports combustion. Witnesses reported explosions at the scene.

The recommend firefighting operation of a fire involving Calcium Peroxide is to flood the fire area with water from a distance. The fire was extinguished by about 7:20 p.m. The Fire Box Alarm and the Hazmat Box Alarm were both struck out at 8:04 p.m.

A cause of the fire was not initially released. However, calcium peroxide can be ignited by friction or by contact with moisture — even the moisture in soil or dirt. Calcium peroxide is also an explosion hazard if mixed with finely divided organic matter.

Calcium peroxide is health hazard, classified as an irritant to nose, throat, lungs, skin, mouth and stomach. Calcium peroxide can cause severe skin burns, serious eye damage, and respiratory irritation. Irritation of the mouth and throat can cause nausea and vomiting. One of the uses of calcium peroxide is to decontaminate soil. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and/or Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) were notified to investigate the incident.

At the time of the fire, winds were from the east and the south about 6 MPH to 10 MPH according to the official National Weather Service station at O’Hare International Airport. A mix of apartments, condos, single-family homes, retail, commercial buildings, and a school were located downwind and near the fire scene.

Segments of Northwest Highway and Oakton Street were closed while firefighters worked to extinguish the fire.

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See also …
CAMEO CHEMICALS | CALCIUM PEROXIDE

Compass Remediation Chemicals | SAFETY DATA SHEET
CALCIUM PEROXIDE

New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services [PDF]