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Fire blocks traffic, shuts shopping center

A fire engulfed several dozen junked cars at the North Shore Towing Company yard on Oakton Street this afternoon and forced a shut off of electric service to the nearby Home Depot shopping center after a power line fell into the flames.

A fire engulfed several dozen junked cars at the North Shore Towing Company yard on Oakton Street this afternoon and forced a shut off of electric service to the nearby Home Depot shopping center after a power line fell into the flames.

Evanston Fire Capt. Kurt Dickman said the fire was reported just after 2 p.m. and by 6 p.m. firefighters were still on the scene as workers moved cars off the top of stacks to make sure the cars underneath weren’t still smoldering.

A worker at the yard suffered a possible broken foot, apparently while trying to fight the fire just before the fire department arrived. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Capt. Dickman said that, in addition to the downed power line, above-ground gasoline and acetylene tanks in the yard created hazardous conditions for fighting the blaze.

Firefighters had to run hoses from a hydrant on the south side of Oakton Street just east of the canal to the yard on the north side of the street, which forced them to close the street to traffic.

Additional fire units were able to hook up to a private hydrant on Home Depot property, he said. Fire units from nine neighboring communities assisted Evanston units at the fire.

“We poured 3,000 gallons of water per minute on the fire for three hours,” Capt. Dickman said, and that left up to two feet of water standing in parts of the yard.

Power to the shopping center was cut sometime after 4 p.m.

Before the power went off, an employee at the Banfield Pet Hospital said workers there were pretty worried when they first learned about the fire, but they kept on doing their jobs as a trickle of customers who’d managed to talk their way past roadblocks arrived to pick up their pets.

Capt. Dickman said fire investigators were on the scene this evening trying to determine what started the fire.

He said he knew of only one previous blaze at the towing yard. That occurred in the early morning hours of Jan. 3 this year and involved only about 10 cars.

North Shore Towing provides towing services for the city and for many private property owners. Capt. Dickman said that none of the towed cars being stored at the lot were involved in the fire.

Updates

  • WBBM-TV reports (via STNG) that a worker using a cutting torch to remove a cars fender started the blaze.
  • The Evanston Review reports the city could bill the towing company for the cost of fighting the fire.
  • WMAQ-TV has helicopter video of the fire.

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