State honors Bridgeview man twice
Randy Carben gets awards from fire marshal’s office
By Steve Metsch
Bridgeview resident Randy Carben has been honored twice in the past year by the Illinois Fire Marshal’s office.
Carben, 57, has lived in the village more than 30 years, and is a part-time police officer for Bridgeview, too.
But his regular job is an investigator for petroleum and chemical safety for the state fire marshal’s office.
“Anything to do with the ingredients that can lead to fires and explosions. We’re in charge of gasoline stations, chemical plants, factories, pipelines, anybody who houses or stores or sells petroleum or chemicals, bulk or retail. The job keeps us really busy. There’s only 16 of us for the entire state. In Cook County, there’s only three of us,” Carben said.
His turf covers Cook County from 103rd Street on the south to Park Ridge on the north. In other words, a big chunk of ground. But he also assists on hazardous situations in DuPage County if needed.
Back in October, several houses in Willowbrook in DuPage County, began exploding. At first, folks thought it was related to natural gas. But Carben’s years of experience told him otherwise.
“I was up in Franklin Park on an investigation, and I got a call from Springfield asking me to run down to Willowbrook and assist their fire department. By the time I got there, a couple more places went up. Crews were looking for a gas leak. That’s when I noticed the sanitary sewer. I have meters and equipment and I found traces of gasoline and gasoline vapors in the sanitary sewer.
When told the sewer line flowed west to east, he sought the nearest gas station, located in Westmont.
“I got to the gas station at 63rd and Cass, a Speedway, and that’s when I knew we had a situation. I did the inspection of the underground system and it was full of gasoline that was leaking. That was our culprit. So, we changed the command post to Westmont. I shut down the station and we went emergency situation for the next 24 hours to eliminate more explosions and fires,” he said.
That meant stopping the flow of gasoline and recapturing what had leaked into the sanitary sewers.
After we pumped more than 100,000 gallons of gas out of the ground, we started flushing the sewer with soap and water to keep the vapors from coming up into houses. That’ where the explosions were coming from.
In recognition for his efforts, the state fire marshal gave him a framed commendation which he said is on a wall at his home.
Earlier in 2017, her received a meritorious service reward from the state fire marshal for saving a young man’s life at a gas station in McCook. The man was working in a trench that was about 10 feet deep.
“I knew it wasn’t OSHA safe. I started yelling at him to get out of the trench. And I was calling the fire department to get people out there to help me rescue him because I didn’t think we’d get him out in time,” Carben recalled.
Carben and the McCook fire chief, Joseph Myrick, got the man out of the trench just before the earthen walls caved in, he said.
“I knew from experience, having been involved in the industry and I’ve been doing this for 29 years now. Everything caved in. The fire personnel said that if we hadn’t gotten him out, it would have been a body recovery,” Carben said.
The man was looking for a hookup for the water line to the station “but instead of using the proper shoring boxes, they had no protection at all. They figured they’d do it fast, find the line and be done. They had no safety measures,” Carben said.
A 3-foot-by-3-foot section of soil can weigh several thousand pounds, he noted. The rescue was performed at a gas station on Joliet Road, just west of Plainfield Road.
Mayor Steve Landek said he and other Bridgeview village officials are proud of the community service and quick-thinking performed by Carben in each incident.
Carben, who formerly did safety work for oil companies, was a construction safety manager for Shell, and oversaw hazardous projects. When the state began overseeing those, he would train state inspectors in Springfield. Eventually, the state hired him.
He and wife Mary have eight children and 22 grandchildren.
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