1992 River West Gas Fires
The marker is located in Chicago about 3/4 mile northwest of the Loop, one block east of I-90/I-94 (Kennedy Expressway). It is mounted on the wall of a building at 911 North Willard Court just north of its intersection with North Milwaukee Avenue .
Neighbors of River West, Timothy O'Mahoney and the Illinois State Historical Society
At 4 p.m. on January 17, 1992, a series of explosions and fires ravaged the River West Community. The fires were in an area bounded by the Chicago River, the Kennedy Expressway, and Kinzie and Division Streets. The devastation was caused by over-pressurization of the natural gas pipelines leading to homes and businesses.
Two hundred and twenty-five fire fighters responded to the emergency. The disaster resulted in 4 fatalities and 18 buildings destroyed or damaged.
Initially the increase in pressure was attributed to a faulty regulator. However, after lengthy investigations, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that a Peoples Gas Company crew was responsible. While doing routine maintenance on gas pressure regulators valves in a vault at Erie and Green streets, the crew failed to monitor downstream pressure when the pressure regulators were off-line. Normal gas pressure of 1/4 PSI soared to at least 10 PSI -- 40 times the normal pressure.
The extreme pressure caused hissing noises in stoves, furnaces, and space heaters. Many individuals shut off their gas service, thereby saving lives and properties.
Based on recommendations by the ICC and the NTSB, regulator valves that once controlled entire neighborhoods were replaced by individual regulators at each building. Increased training for gas crews was also initiated.
This marker is mounted at 911 North Willard Street, one of the original buildings damaged by the River West Fires.
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