My turn

Of sinkholes and firetrucks in Calumet City

2012-08-02T00:00:00Z Of sinkholes and firetrucks in Calumet CityBy George Grenchik Times Columnist
August 02, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Firetrucks get our attention. I guess they are supposed to. They are big, come in bright colors and even when not blasting horns and sirens, you can easily hear them.

Yes, firetrucks are cool and when you see them running hot (blaring and blasting) you know that trained, competent, professional help is on the way.

What wasn’t so cool, about a week ago, was seeing one of Calumet City’s firetrucks stuck in a sinkhole that was about eight-feet deep. This occurred at the intersection of Buffalo Avenue and Sibley Boulevard.

The engine was en route to check some power lines after the storms of July 24. Turning on to Buffalo from Sibley the back end of the truck broke through the pavement, which turned out to be the only thing that had been holding up all the vehicles which had been passing over that spot for who knows how long.

No one was hurt and there was somewhat of a bemused air about the situation.

What was not so bemusing was the knowledge that there are things underground that should not have a firetruck upon them. Things like natural gas lines.

And indeed there was one. Nicor verified there was a live line directly under the sunken firetruck. Needless to say, the extrication of the firetruck proceeded with great caution.

After several hours, Wes’ Towing and its massive million-dollar tow truck slowly picked the back end of the firetruck out of the hole while another tow truck slowly pulled at the front of the truck to bring it to safer (let’s hope) ground.

It was quite an operation.

With the truck out of the hole, I did take my turn looking into the hole and did see the large gas line.

As it happened, the fall of the truck was stopped by the water main which prevented the truck from possibly landing on the line, which I imagine could have ruptured, which means one little spark from anywhere ... disaster.

Anyway, I learned a new saying that day which I think is big time true and a wise thing to keep in mind. One of the firefighters on the scene said that if you see a firefighter run ... catch up.

Mike Giglio, of Calumet City Plumbing, explained to me that little by little older sewers leak and water gradually washes the sand and dirt away. Then you have a heavy storm, like happened during the night before the incident, then you have a heavy vehicle on a side street that doesn’t see many heavy vehicles, and then the pavement doesn’t tolerate the weight. And then you have a firetruck in a sinkhole.

What was great to see were all the entities that came together to take care of what could have been a devastating situation. There was the Fire Department, the police, the Emergency Services Disaster Agency, the Water Department, Nicor, Public Works Department, numerous city officials, Wes’ Towing and Calumet City Plumbing.

I remember 20 years ago, a similar incident happened. A cement truck came to rest in, not on, Hirsch Avenue. It occurred just before school let out at St. Victor and attracted quite a crowd of kids at dismissal.

Yes, our infrastructure needs work. Not just in Calumet City, but in many places across the country. I have a hard time with folks who continually harp on governmental agencies to cut spending. From the firetruck in the sinkhole episode, it seems to me that could be a disastrous choice.

Thanks for reading.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. George Grenchik is a longtime Calumet City resident and retired instructor at Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond. He can be reached at

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