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Flights Grounded After Fire at Chicago FAA Facility

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Hundreds of flights into and out of Chicago were canceled Friday, and airports across the country braced for gridlock after a fire authorities believe was intentionally set blazed through the basement of a Federal Aviation Administration control center outside the city.

Fire and police personnel found a contracted employee in the basement of the FAA facility in Aurora, Illinois, when they responded to the blaze Friday morning, according to the control center. The 36-year-old man was hospitalized with a self-inflicted stab wound, and another man was treated for smoke inhalation, according to the FAA. Fifteen to 30 additional employees were safely evacuated from the center, the FAA said. The incident was “isolated,” and there are no indications it was terrorism-related, Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas said.

The fire prompted the cancellations of more than 1,700 flights into and out of O’Hare and Midway international airports, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware.com. The FAA recently named O'Hare the world's busiest airport. A statement from the Chicago Department of Aviation said flights had been “significantly disrupted,” and Southwest Airlines suspended all flights into and out of the city for the day. "It's been terrible," traveler Diana Cordova told NBC Chicago. "I'm trying to get to Phoenix this morning. It doesn't look likely."

The fire, which was extinguished 15 minutes after it was first reported, is being investigated by the FAA, the FBI and other agencies. Charges have not yet been filed against the suspect, according to Aurora police, who said they have not determined a motive.

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— Elisha Fieldstadt

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