CHICAGO (CBS) — Two people were injured in an explosion and fires Friday morning at an apartment complex in west suburban Willowbrook and in the neighboring town of Westmont.
In Westmont, there were nearly a dozen small fires and over 100 reports of gasoline odors caused by a leak into the sewer system, officials said.
Police and fire officials confirmed the explosion around 9:30 a.m. on the 6100 block of Knoll Wood Road in Willowbrook. Many windows in the building were blown out.
Willowbrook Police Chief Robert Pavelchik said one woman was injured when she turned on her dryer, sparking the explosion of gasoline fumes in the sewer. A second person suffered burns, but it was unclear whether that happened at the apartment building or in Westmont.
“Flowing through the sanitary sewer. That’s our toilets and our water that we drain away,” Pavelchik said.
Officials were trying to determine where the gasoline was entering the sewers and believe it may have come from a gasoline station in Westmont.
As a precaution, about 30 apartments were evacuated, and natural gas service was shut off.
“We want to eliminate all possible ignition sources, therefor we don’t want furnaces fireing up water heaters firing up, anything that might spark,” Pavelchik said.
Residents reported smelling gasoline coming from the sewers starting Thursday afternoon.
Village of Westmont fire officials isolated gasoline in a sewer line at 61st and Cass Avenue around 10:30 a.m on Friday. Crews were in the process of removing the gasoline from the sewer system.
There have been more than 100 of reports of gasoline odors in basements in an area bounded by Richmond Avenue, Route 83, 61st Street and 63rd Street.
Westmont reported additional fires in the neighorhood that have been “handled.”
Christopher Simmons said he was sleeping at the time of the explosion. He said firefighters had visited the apartment complex several times on Thursday to investigate reports of a gasoline smell.
“They came like three times last night. Three times that the alarms kept going off,” he said. “They just kept coming, and said it was a gas leak, but ain’t nothing exploded last night. So it was just like you smelled it a lot.”
Westmont first responders believe that the problem may have originated at a Speedway gas station.
They report no fires or explosions as of 1 p.m. Friday afternoon, but said 8 miles from the Speedway communities need to be concerned if they smell gas.
Federal, state and local workers are focusing their attention on the Speedway gas station. The gas pumps were stopped and bagged, as firefighters said they are looking into if there was a gas leak at the station and if it played a role in an explosion about a mile away in a Willowbrook apartment complex and incidents in two other homes.
Their job is to determine where the gas came from, how it got into the storm sewer system and how to stop it before another explosion occurs.
It is unclear how widespread the threat is, but police have warned neighbors in Willowbrook, Westmont, Darien, and Burr Ridge to eliminate ignition sources and if they smell any gas in their homes to open windows, doors and call 911.
There are four businesses closed near the gas station. Firefighters expect they will also be closed on Saturday.