Chicago police station evacuated due to fire

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Dozens of prisoners were forced to evacuate a police station on Chicago's West Side Tuesday because of a fire. It happened inside the basement of Area 4 Police Headquarters at 3151 W. Harrison. All the prisoners have been relocated.

Area 4 is one of the busiest police stations in the city and it's connected to a circuit court building. At the time of this fire there were more than 110 prisoners inside, and with several hundred police officers as well as court and support staff, all were ordered out when smoke began pouring out of the basement.

Firefighters say there were no flames. Just lot of thick heavy smoke originating from a closet in the basement. Prisoners are housed upstairs, so police had time to call in sheriff buses, and they were put in plastic handcuffs and taken to other lockups throughout the city.

The prisoners were transported under the watchful eye of officers, some of whom were carrying high-powered rifles. For now, the police and adjoining court building are closed while the fire department airs it all out.

"Once we can make certain that the carbon monoxide levels through the structure are not a hazard to the occupants, we will turn the building over to the police and their building engineers will do whatever is necessary to make it operational," said Dep. Chief Patrick Kehoe, Chicago Fire Department.

"Our resources will be reallocated. Special operations will fill in for the 11th District until the third watch is up and running. Likewise, the day crew will stay over a little bit longer. There will be no absence of a police presence in the 11th District," said Pat Camden, Chicago police spokesperson.

No one was injured.

A cause is still being investigated. There is a big radio tower above the police station. Police say it is possible that lightning could have struck it. But there was not a lot of lightning being reported in the area at the time. The tower is connected to the electrical closet down in the basement.

It doesn't look like anything sinister caused the fire.

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