Chicago Chemical Plant Blaze Worries Residents

Investigators say chemicals fueled the flames of a massive factory blaze on the near Southwest Side that began late Tuesday night.

Video: Images: Fire Destroys Chemical Plant

The fire broke out around 11 p.m. at a chemical factory at 15th and Ashland, resulting in nearby street closures and potential traffic headaches for motorists.

Firefighters were still on the scene at 5:30 a.m., when some chemicals started to flare up. Crews continued to douse the smoldering building, but the flames appeared to be struck.

At its height, the blaze required more than 200 firefighters as flames shot 20 to 30 feet above the roof of the structure. The fire knocked out power to the area and temporarily shut down a nearby Metra line, which was running normally by 6 a.m. Crews were able to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby buildings.

Ashland was closed between Roosevelt and 16th streets, and officials did not say when it would reopen. The No. 9 Ashland bus was temporarily rerouted around the closure, but was back on a regular schedule late Wednesday morning. Roosevelt Street was also closed between Wood and Loomis.

Smoke could be seen for miles, and fire crews received calls from as far away as Lincoln Park and the Loop. Residents who live near the blaze said the smoke and flames were unbelievable.

"It was black, I mean dark," resident Melvin Reece said. "And a big explosion; it was black."

Cortez Trotter, the Chicago Fire Department commissioner, said 55-gallon drums inside the factory were the likely source of the explosions.

The factory manufactures products used in candles and other products, including deodorants and candy glazing.

Some residents said they were worried about the burning chemicals.

"I just hope that I don't get sick," resident Casey Badwan said. "From the smell of it, it seems like it's not normal smoke."

The Fire Department said it had been testing the smoke, and they believe it does not pose a danger to residents. Power was restored to the area by 6 a.m.

One firefighter suffered injuries that were not considered serious.

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