Wall collapses in Lyons

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Wall buckles in Lyons

Good Samaritan alerts village to danger

By Steve Metsch

When Steve Bortman arrived at work on Aug. 20, he noticed something didn’t look quite right across the street.

The bricks on a two-story building, 7936 W. Ogden Ave. in Lyons, appeared to be buckling out toward the street.

“You could see a horizontal break in the wall, like there was a gap, and the bricks were bowing out. It looked like they would pop out under the weight,” Bortman said.

“I thought, ‘Oh, that can’t be good’,” he said.

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Bortman called the Lyons Building Department, but it wasn’t open. He then called the police non-emergency number and said, “I’d send somebody over here because it doesn’t look too safe”

A dispatcher asked if it looked dangerous.

Bortman, who owns Minuteman Press, 7937 W. Ogden, replied: “Well, I own a print shop. I’m not a brick mason. But let me put it this way, I wouldn’t walk underneath it.”

Lyons officials said no one was hurt when a wall on this building began to buckle Aug. 20. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Lyons officials said no one was hurt when a wall on this building began to buckle Aug. 20. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Moment later, police officers, firefighters, and employees of the building public works departments had gathered on the scene.

The building, Fire Chief Gordon Nord Jr., said, is 40 feet tall. They had to clear a space at least 40 feet in length in case the bricks did indeed fall into Ogden Avenue.

He was worried it could, given the situation coupled with strong vibrations caused by passing trucks.

A masonry expert was called out. Further investigation determined it was not a supporting wall. But Nord wasn’t about to take any chances.

Nord decided to close the two westbound lanes on the north side of Ogden, the lanes nearest the building. That reduced traffic to one lane in each direction along the south side of Ogden.

After officials had secured the area, they made sure a business inside was closed and they evacuated a second-floor apartment. That resident was able to return later that day, Nord said.

The cause seems to have been a rusty I-beam, he said.

“Everything shifted. It’s a very old building. When that happened, we saw cracks along the bottom side and the upper side. In the process of framing out the front of the building, they put two nails in the wall. When they did, the majority of the wall came down,” Nord said.

“The main thing is nobody got hurt. Although (closing two lanes) was an inconvenience to people, it had to happen to guarantee that cars wouldn’t be struck and people wouldn’t be hit if the bricks did come down,” Nord said.

Westbound lanes were reopened to traffic around 5 p.m. Aug. 20, Nord said.

Longtime residents of Lyons may recall a hardware store was once in the building. Now, the first floor is home to a psychic.

“I don’t know how she didn’t figure out it was about to come down,” Nord quipped.

Added Bortman: “That’s what I said. You would’ve thought she had known, right?”

— Desplaines Valley News

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Steve Metsch

Steve Metsch is an award winning veteran reporter who previously worked for the Daily Southtown Newspapers, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. Metsch is a writer and editor at the Southwest News Newspaper group based in suburban Chicago, and a freelance writer for a financial newsletter, a health magazine and the Naperville Sun.
Email Steve Metsch at sm4610@sbcglobal.net
Steve Metsch

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