Friday, September 8, 2023

Fires In Viaducts Continue Happening, But No One Seems to Care.

Aftermath of latest fire under DuSable LSD at Lawrence

 A reader sent us the following photos and info:

"AGAIN. I walk under Lake Shore Drive every day to get to the park, and once again there was a fire. I sent you photos two months ago, and this morning another fire!!"

If you haven't been paying attention, from reports from readers, this is the fourth fire under the Wilson and Lawrence viaducts in a year and a half. Pictures of three are below

We covered this story extensively after a March 21, 2022 explosion and fire under the Lawrence Viaduct

After a different fire in the park next to Weiss Hospital, we wrote an editorial in April 2022 about the massive dangers involved with the use of propane under the viaducts.

The City promised it was acting to remove propane tanks from under the viaducts, but in July 2023, several readers sent us word of another significant fire, shown in the following photos:

We did not publish those photos at the time. Several readers wrote that they sent photos and complaints about the fire and propane tanks to Alderwoman Clay and the City. We expected some comment from the Alderwoman or the City, but no one said a word and it has escaped notice until now.

Now, once again, we have another fire. 

We know the cause of the fires. The mix of propane tanks, open drug use, smoking, drinking and fights between homeless camping on public sidewalks has been nothing but bad. But no one is doing anything about it.

This is what residents of the area trying to get to and from the lake have had to deal with (picture from July, courtesy of another reader):

We noted before our concerns about the threat to innocent bystanders and the significant threat to the public walking or driving next to the encampments

We were also concerned about the threat to drivers on DuSable Lake Shore Drive due to the damage repeated fire are inevitably causing to the underside of the bridges

On this point, we note that former Alderman Cappleman shared the following September 2022 email (signed by the Chief Bridge Engineer of the City of Chicago) in his April 2023 newsletter. 

Notably, the Chief Bridge Engineer said the following:

"[The Wilson Avenue Viaduct] structure was found to be safe for pedestrian and overhead traffic on Lake Shore Drive. But please note that the life of this bridge has dramatically been reduce [sic] because of these fires....But if these fires continue the structure will be compromise [sic] and we may need to close it."

Screenshot of Ald. Cappleman's email with CDOT's assessment

Why this wasn't a bigger story in the aldermanic campaign is beyond us. But right now we are in complete radio silence from the Clay administration and the City about what they are doing to address this issue. 

The use of propane tanks under the viaducts makes using the viaducts extraordinarily dangerous, a literal accident waiting to happen

This photo shows conditions a few days ago:

Propane tanks and grill outside Wilson viaduct at DSLSD

This cannot continue. Do something

Alderwoman Clay? What are you doing to fix this?  

P.S. An older reader who uses a powered scooter at times reminds us constantly that the encampments constitute a continuous ADA violation as those in scooters or wheelchairs must ride in the bike lane or in the street to avoid the encampments. We would do him a disservice to not point that out here.

P.P.S. We are always open for tips if you know more. You can reach our team at our email address uptownupdate AT 


  1. Socialist BLM Alderman Clay approves of these fires because roads are capitalist and racist white supremacy.

  2. So as I understand it. These fires are caused by the tents that are on the sidewalks that people live in and light stoves or smoke; correct? Why can't there be dividers, like spikes, or even heavy planters put on the sidewalks so that they can't plant their tents? Seems to be an easy solution.

  3. The wheelchair citizen can file a complaint with the government claiming ADA violations. That will get Clay's attention.