Huge Blaze Destroys West Side Businesses

Exploding propane tanks add extra danger to volatile fire

Firefighters battled a three-alarm blaze Thursday afternoon at a large commercial building on Chicago's West Side, next to the Eisenhower Expressway.

Thick, black smoke was seen shooting up from the fully engulfed location of in the building in the 3900 block of West Harrison Street, from miles away.

According to the Chicago Fire Department, the fire started at a building housing metal products company LPI Worldwide, and spread to Harris Ice Company and a two-story residential building.

The fire prompted a hazardous materials response because of the ammonia used in the ice making process, but propane turned out to be the big issue with several tanks exploding inside.

"You could actually see that gas was coming out of the building and then lighting up, and shortly afterward there would be an explosion, so with that in mind, we took the precautions to stay away from the natural openings in the front of the buildings," Deputy Chicago Fire Commissioner John McNicholas said.

The blaze started around 3:30 p.m. and was struck at about 4:30 p.m.

LPI's roof caved in and the building is being considered a total loss.

Pulaski Road was shut down across the Eisenhower, and expressway ramps in the area were shut down as delays were building on the expressway.

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