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Fire at Largest UPS Ground Hub Damages Packages

A fire broke out early yesterday outside United Parcel Service Inc.'s largest ground hub in the world, damaging or destroying less than 2,000 packages and forcing the temporary evacuation of more than 1,000 workers from the Chicago-area site.

The bulk of the packages were headed to New Jersey, Denver and DeKalb, IL. They could have originated in Chicago or other areas, said Christine McManus, a UPS spokeswoman.

UPS is contacting customers whose packages were affected so that alternative arrangements can be made. Customers concerned about the movement of any specific package may use www.ups.com to track their shipment.

The fire started around 12:15 a.m. in a trailer at the Chicago Area Consolidation Hub in southwest suburban Hodgkins, IL, McManus said. The hub is the world's largest ground facility for sorting and distributing packages, she said.

The trailer was at a dock on the building's east side where workers were loading packages onto another trailer to be sent back out, McManus said. The fire spread to six trailers before it was extinguished around 3:15 a.m. Some of the trailers were empty, and damage was contained largely to two of the trailers, the company said.

Firefighters from 16 suburbs kept the blaze from spreading to the 1.5 million-square-foot center, which employs 11,000 workers and handles 2 million packages a day during the holiday season, McManus said. Yesterday was one of the busiest days of the year at UPS, as thousands of holiday packages are routed through the center just nine days before Christmas.

Employees returned to work soon after the fire was out. Operations inside the building have returned to normal, and all packages are being processed without delay, the company said.

UPS said it is cooperating with local authorities and is conducting its own investigation into the cause.

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