Route 14 shut for downed line, then fire

CRYSTAL LAKE – It was a chaotic commute Monday evening for drivers on Route 14.

Crystal Lake police shut down portions of Northwest Highway in both directions, first for a downed power line and then for a fire at a nearby Taco Bell restaurant. The road was closed for about two hours.

The downed ComEd line was believed to be a result of Monday’s high winds.

The wire went across the Route 14 near the Crystal Lake Motel, and the road was closed from Dole Avenue to North Shore Drive. All lanes reopened by 6:45 p.m.

Then, fire crews were called to Taco Bell, 420 W. Virginia St., for an electrical fire, and authorities again closed Route 14 from Dole to McHenry avenues.

“It’s a lot for the [fire department] and the police department,” Crystal Lake Fire Deputy Chief Paul DeRaedt said. “Everybody was pretty taxed.”

The restaurant remained closed Monday evening and was cordoned off with orange cones. There was a strong smoke smell in the vicinity.

DeRaedt estimated there to be about $30,000 in water and smoke damage and electrical damage to the restaurant.

He said Taco Bell likely will remain closed for several weeks. The McHenry County Department of Health was on scene to inform managers about how to dispose of the restaurant’s food.

Employees of Taco Bell said that first some of the restaurant’s computers began to flicker and then black smoke that filled the restaurant. There were about seven employees and three teenage customers in the restaurant at the time, the employees said.

No one was injured.

“We got out of there before it got really bad,” Taco Bell employee Ashley Christensen said. “It was crazy, totally unexpected.”

The electrical fire started somewhere between the bathroom and kitchen, DeRaedt said.

Transformers in the area were arcing about 45 minutes before the fire started, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary at the time, DeRaedt.

Mutual aid was called from various fire departments because of Monday afternoon’s temperatures in the 90s.

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