Fire put out near Lake Shore Drive bridge after lengthy battle

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CHICAGO —Emergency crews spent hours Monday afternoon battling a fire near the Lake Shore Drive Bridge over the Chicago River.

The fire broke out in the pilings on the northeast end of the bridge Monday afternoon. According to fire officials, a contractor was using a blowtorch to make structural repairs when the fire started.

A large plume of smoke could be seen rising over the bridge just before noon. The smoke has been the main issues firefighters have been dealing with.

While it is toxic, it’s too small of an amount to have caused any problems to the public. Firefighters working on the blaze could have been harmed by the smoke, officials said.

Authorities shut down traffic for a time between Chicago Avenue and Randolph Street as crews worked to put out the fire.

Tourists and residents near and around the river were treated to an unexpected sight.

“I saw them welding over on the pier,” Ken Gaffney said.” I was like ‘this is going to get interesting.'”

A piling consists of multiple railroad ties held together with a metal wrapping. It’s there to protect the bridge from boats running into it.

Officials said the crew was trying to get the lid off the ties with a crane. When it wouldn’t budge, they tried to use a torch to cut off the bolts. The chemical cresol soaked the railroad ties, then it caught fire.

Firefighters had all the water they need, but the cresol was the problem that could have kept them out on the lakefront for a while.

“Hopefully not for days,” a fire official said.  “We've had one for burn for days.”

No workers were injured and there was no reported no damage to the bridge.

Officials were able to put out the fire just before 4 p.m.

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