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By Megan Dooley
A gas station on Chicago Avenue was left in flames last Tuesday after an armed robber fired shots into a display shelf of flammable liquids.
Oak Park police responded to the incident at the Valero gas station at 100 Chicago Ave. shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Oak Park Commander LaDon Reynolds said that the incident began when a man entered the store, displayed a gun, and demanded money. Reynolds confirmed that two employees were inside the store at the time of the robbery, but could not confirm if any additional individuals were present.
The suspect then discharged the weapon in the direction of a shelf holding flammable materials, such as lighter fluids. Reynolds said that the shots were not directed at either of the store employees.
The shots sparked a fire inside the store, and the suspect immediately fled the scene. Reynolds said that he made off with some cash, but couldn't confirm an amount. Reynolds said that no one was injured during the robbery and fire, and that the investigation is ongoing,
Oak Park firefighters arrived at the scene at 4:13 p.m. to visible flames inside the gas station, according to Fire Chief Thomas Ebsen. "They did have some difficulty, because the fire originated in the teller area, which is behind bullet-proof glass," he said.
Though the total loss is unknown at this time, Ebsen said that there was "quite a bit of damage inside the station," but that the damage was primarily limited to the teller area and the ceiling above it. He said that additional repairs will have to be made to the roof of the building, where fire workers had to cut a hole to ventilate the building during the fire.
The fire chief said the fire could have been much worse if it had occurred around the gas pump area outside, but it was contained inside the store at all times. "The gas pumps were never in danger of being on fire," he said.
Ebsen said that River Forest firefighters assisted at the scene, and the fire was brought under control in about 10 minutes.