Firefighter in Critical Condition After Responding To IL Chemical Spill

26 Apr, 2019 Liz Carey


Beack Park, IL ( – Eleven firefighters were among those who succumbed to the fumes of a chemical spill at a Chicago suburb on Thursday.

Lake Forest Fire Chief Mike Gallo said in a press conference that a tractor trailer towing containers of anhydrous ammonia developed a leak around 4:30 am. Because the leak caused a cloud of toxic gas to settle over the suburb, authorities ordered residents to shelter in place with closed windows.

In all, 37 people were hospitalized, including seven who were listed in critical condition. One of the 11 officers hospitalized was in critical condition. Three other law enforcement officers were in good condition and several others were listed as serious but stable, according to sheriff’s spokesman Christopher Covelli.

“This is a very dangerous chemical that can cause unconsciousness and, worst case scenario, death," Covelli said at a press conference.

Those who arrived first were most at risk, officials said. The first two officers responding to the call were forced to retreat when they were overcome by ammonia, Covelli said.

Most of the injured suffered breathing problems, authorities said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anhydrous ammonia is “a colorless gas with pungent, suffocating fumes” and is used “as an agricultural fertilizer and industrial refrigerant.”

Improperly handling it can cause eye, nose and throat irritation; difficulty breathing; pulmonary edema; burns, blisters and frostbite, and can be deadly in high concentrations.

The leak was contained within a few hours, and the shelter in place order was lifted by mid-morning.


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    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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