An extra-alarm fire destroyed three buildings, at least half a dozen semis and thousands of wooden pallets at a Little Village business overnight, according to authorities.

A giant plume of black smoke could be seen from the Circle Interchange downtown as firefighters quickly called a 3-11 for the fire, which began around 11:15 p.m. in the 2500 block of West 25th Street and brought 240 firefighters and paramedics to the scene.

Crews struggled to get enough water on the fire as the flames quickly spread, lighting the sky from Interstate 55 along the Southwest Side.

At one point, an engine experienced a "vacuum," unable to pull any more water from a main.  The hose connected to the hydrant collapsed, as if someone were trying to draw water through a pinched straw, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.

There was a potential that the water main itself could have collapsed, he said.

The Water Department increased water pressure at the Western Avenue pumping station while crews drew water from as far away as Cermak Road, three blocks north, and Western Avenue, about two blocks east, Langford said.

Engines were strung together with hoses to draw water from hydrants farther away. A snorkel truck and fire trucks with nozzles attached to the tops of ladders were fed water to fight the fire from above.

More than 45 minutes after the fire was first reported, crews still were having a hard time getting water on the fire from the south. Once water was supplied to a rig that could pump it over the fire, a leak sprung from a connection in the hoses.

The 3-11 was struck out about 1 a.m. but crews remained at the scene through the night.

Onlookers parked along a southern entry to the yard and stepped out to watch and take pictures. Firefighters yelled at them to move so extra equipment could get into the area.

Among the equipment brought to the scene was a light wagon to illuminate the front of the fire area, a wagon carrying a mile of hose, an air truck with extra tanks for firefighters and a truck carrying extra batteries referred to as the "batmobile."

A paramedic found a man on his back just east of Western Avenue on 25th Street. He had been hit and was bleeding from the back of his head, officials said. He apparently had been knocked out and did not respond to the deputy chief.

He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital by an ambulance that responded from Pulaski and Maypole in the East Garfield Park neighborhood on the West Side.

pnickeas@tribune.com | Twitter: @PeterNickeas