airport

airport (Tribune illustration)

Flights were delayed this morning at Chicago's two main airports after a fire alarm went off at an Elgin air traffic control facility and the building had to be evacuated.

The alarm was triggered about 8:03 a.m. because water was detected flowing into pipes that handle the facility's sprinkler system, according to an e-mail from Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Elizabeth Isham Cory. No water was actually discharged, but because the alarm went off, the building was evacuated until about 8:30 a.m.

Before the evacuation, the responsibility for the airspace handled out of Elgin was transferred to the FAA's Aurora facility.

"Pilots were talking to air traffic controllers at all times," Isham Cory said, but there were delays caused by the incident.

There were 20 arrival delays of more than 15 minutes but less than 30 minutes at O'Hare International Airport and 52 departure delays in the same range. There was one departure delay at O'Hare of longer than 30 minutes.

At Midway, there were 3 arrival delays of more than 15 minutes but less than 30 minutes and three departure delays in the same range.

Seven incoming flights to O'Hare were diverted to other airports, the e-mail said, possibly for fuel, and one was diverted from Midway.

Traffic soon returned to normal, Isham Cory said, within about 15 or 20 minutes.

The local fire department responded to the alarm and helped shut it off, according to the release. There was no fire or structural damage to the facility. The FAA is investigating what caused the water to flow into the sprinkler system pipes, setting off the alarm.

chicagobreaking@tribune.com
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