Asphalt embers & propane blamed in Hammond fire - KMSP-TV

Asphalt embers & propane blamed in Hammond fire

Posted: Updated:
HAMMOND, Ind. (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Two North Hammond businesses suffered total losses when a fire engulfed them during routine maintenance work Saturday morning, the Post-Tribune is reporting.

Two mechanics for asphalt hauler BXI LLC, 610 131st Place, were using a torch to unclog a valve on the back of a tractor-trailer when, at around 8:50 a.m., one of them turned around to see the concrete pad on which they working ablaze, said Hammond Fire Chief Jeff Smith. The two men escaped the area.

As the fire spread, it ignited a storage unit containing tires, which then ignited a second building containing more tires and other equipment, said Hammond Fire Inspector Diane Brzycki said.

A propane gas leak likely ignited when the burning embers of asphalt the men were unclogging from the valve fell to the ground, Brzycki said. The embers were a normal occurrence during the type of work the mechanics were doing.

One of the men was taken to St. Margaret Mercy Health Care in Hammond with minor injuries, Brzycki said.

BXI Terminal Manager Dave Schmidt said that although the business' office building and dispatch were spared, the three-bay shop, along with the building of one of its subcontractors, Chappo's Inc., are a total loss.

"We lost three tractor-trailers, three trucks and two tankers plus computers and tools, everything," he said. "Two of the trailers might have something to salvage, but I don't know.

"The rest of the weekend and Monday are going to be really interesting."

Schmidt said that even if the Hammond branch, which employs 70 people and is a subsidiary of Canton, Ohio-based Kenan Group, finds another garage out of which to work while new bays are built, the mechanics lost their tools in the fire.

Marty Chappo, who owns Chappo's, handled the welding and fabrication for BXI. He lost everything in the fire.

"I just borrowed $12,000 to hire some more help because I didn't have the money, and now, I don't know how I'm going to pay that back," Chappo said. "This account was 98 percent of my income.

"This is 40 years of collecting right here, and I was going to retire next year. I have a lot of soul searching to do in the next couple days."

Firefighters from BP Whiting Refinery and the Lake County Hazmat assisted the Hammond Fire Department in putting out the fire.

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