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Firefighters bring Chicago Fire Under Control; Some Buildings Still Without PowerAired September 14, 2000 - 3:34 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I am Lou Waters at CNN Center.
And again, it's a major mess this afternoon in the downtown area of Chicago: a several-block area in Chicago's North Loop, following a three-alarm fire, which now is out. But the fire early on followed some cement work that was being done on an underground electrical vault.
Now, in the vault are four transformers. We just heard from the public information officer -- the Commonwealth Edison in Chicago -- that the cement work was going on and then there was some popping sounds: a series of explosions, sparks flying. The transformers -- the four transformers inside that vault now are gone, we are told. Those transformers were supplying power for some buildings in the area.
There was some talk early on about shutting down power for all of that area of downtown Chicago, which might have affected even the train system. That plan now is on hold. Apparently, they're pulling in some generators to restore power to only three buildings that have been evacuated and are being effected -- affected right now.
We have Sergeant Robert Cargi of the Chicago Police Department on the line. In addition to the three-alarm fire and the evacuations and bringing in the generators, many other problems, Sergeant.
First of all, has anyone been hurt?
SGT. ROBERT CARGI, CHICAGO POLICE: From my -- to the best of my understanding, there are no injuries reported.
WATERS: And you have a major traffic problem downtown?
CARGI: Well, based on -- as you can imagine, over 100 fire -- or 50 pieces of fire equipment are involved, over 100 firefighters and paramedics, so that would tie up a number of streets. There is like a six-square-block area closed right now.
WATERS: There was some talk about perhaps shutting down power, which might have affected the train system. Trains are running though, I understand.
CARGI: That is -- to the best of my understanding, that is correct.
WATERS: We were also told there is a hazardous-materials team in the area. What is their function? Why are they there?
CARGI: Well, based on the electrical fire and some of the insulation, they would be there to determine any kind of toxicity or anything to that degree. A foam unit from O'Hare Airport was also brought in to contain if necessary.
WATERS: About the folks that were evacuated from their offices: That was done rather hastily, I understand?
CARGI: At this point, the fire department has not required any evacuation. That was a decision by the people involved -- the people who actually were working within those facilities prior to the fire department
WATERS: They felt the need to get out.
WATERS: And those buildings are without power at the moment. Do you know anything about the decision about power: bringing in the generator versus shutting down power to the whole area until they determine whether or not there was a continuing fire threat?
CARGI: According to the commissioner -- the fire commissioner in Chicago, he said that Commonwealth Edison was able to reroute the grid to the point that they were able to allow power to the majority of the area. Just, like you said, only three buildings were -- are without power at this point.
WATERS: So the problem now is just to stabilize the area and get back to normal. How long do you figure that will take?
CARGI: That's -- right now, it's not -- it's undeterminable. I mean, it's -- they are working as fast as they can, obviously, to try to meet the needs of rush hour. But it will probably be into rush hour in order to fully ensure that the fire is truly contained and to get all the equipment that is on site out of that area.
WATERS: And it's going to be a wacky rush hour for you.
Sergeant Robert Cargi, thanks for helping us out.
The sergeant is with the Chicago Police Department.
We will continue to follow the story. It appears to be pretty well handled right now. But if there are any further developments, we will pass them on.
I am Lou Waters.
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