Fire under Lake Shore Drive bridge burns for hours, disrupting traffic

A construction worker’s blowtorch sparked the fire at 10:45 a.m. and the flames were doused shortly after, but the fire reignited and wasn’t extinguished until well into the afternoon, according to a Fire Department spokesman.

SHARE Fire under Lake Shore Drive bridge burns for hours, disrupting traffic
Fire crews worked a blaze at the base of Lake Shore Drive Oct. 7, 2019, on the Chicago River.

Fire crews worked a blaze at the base of Lake Shore Drive Oct. 7, 2019, on the Chicago River.

Chicago Fire Dept.

Firefighters worked for hours Monday to extinguish a burning wooden piling at a construction site under a Lake Shore Drive bridge downtown.

A construction worker’s blow torch set fire to a piling about 10:45 a.m. near the base of the bridge in the Chicago River, according to Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Merritt.

A Fire Department boat responded and doused the flames within a half hour, but the fire reignited and proved difficult to extinguish, Merritt said. Fire crews monitored and continued to extinguish the flames well into the afternoon.

In a tweet, the Fire Department explained the fire was limited to a “dolphin,” a piling that protects the bridge. Contractors were doing repair work on the bridge when the piling was ignited, the department said.

Merritt said the issue was that the wooden piling was encased in metal, which prevented firefighters from accessing the source of the fire.

The fire was extinguished by 3 p.m. and the scene was turned over to the contractor, Merritt said.

Chicago police said they were called to the scene for traffic control on Lake Shore Drive, which was briefly shut down. The road was opened again to vehicle traffic, and the pedestrian and bike paths between Monroe and Illinois were reopened a short time later.

No contractors or firefighters were injured in the fire, and there was no damage to the bridge, the department said.

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