Support structures jutting out of the Downtown Branch of the Chicago River caught fire early Friday, causing massive smoke and forcing police to shutdown a major bridge.
About 40 “pilings” near the State Street Bridge at Wacker Drive caught fire shortly after sunrise. The pilings are located near the bank of the river and are used to tie barges. The fire was contained to the pilings
Chicago firefighters fought the blaze from the river banks, and a fire boat was in the water nearby.
“I have one boat on the scene in case someone falls into the water. It’s [fire] pretty much out,’’ according to a sergeant at the scene at about 9:30 a.m.
The pilings are structures that have been in place for nearly 100 years, and work as “bumpers’’ that protect the bridge in case a speeding boat or barge should strike it, according to the sergeant.
“They’re pretty old,’’ according to the sergeant, who said the pilings are commonly called “dolphins” and are wooden structures surrounded by steel platings, capped of with a cement top.
The blaze isn't thought to be suspicious and was possibly started by the heat from a drill workers were using.
The workers poured water on it when it when it initially started, but it apparently rekindled, a police lieutenant said.
State Street remained closed in both directions between Wacker Drive and Kinzie Street as of 9 a.m.
The cause of the fire was still under investigation Friday morning.