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The Burbank Fire Department responded around 5:45 p.m. to complaints of gasoline smells emanating from sinks and bathtubs. The odors were mostly confined to the apartment buildings on the south side of 79th Street between Laramie and Lavergne Avenues, according to Burbank Fire Chief Dave Gilgenberg.
Although air quality readings indicated the fumes were non-explosive, the buildings were evacuated out of an abundance of caution, Gilgenberg said.
A large hazardous materials response by area agencies prompted police to close 79th Street for several hours as crews searched for the source of the gasoline.
Burbank firefighters were assisted by several other neighboring fire departments along with personnel from the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office, the Illinois EPA, ComEd and Nicor. Burbank Public Works and the Building Department also assisted.
According to Gilgenberg, the fumes were determined to be coming from the sanitary sewer lines. Employees of the South Stickney Sanitary District and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District used around 30,000 gallons of water to flush the sewer lines in an effort to remediate the problem.
“The source of the gasoline is undetermined and is still being investigated,” Gilgenberg said.
Gilgenberg said he alerted the Red Cross and arranged for several CTA buses to come to the scene when it became evident an evacuation was necessary. Displaced residents were sheltered aboard the buses and were provided with food and drink by the Red Cross.
The all clear was given and residents were allowed to returned to their homes just after midnight.
Gilgenberg said air quality readings are safe and meters don’t register dangerous fumes but the buildings still have a faint odor of gasoline that can be detected by the human nose.
Chemical and petroleum experts from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Illinois EPA continued their investigation Thursday, but the source of the fumes has yet to be uncovered.