NORMAL – Firefighters battled freezing temperatures at a multi-alarm blaze at Sugar Creek Apartments at 606 S. Linden Street this afternoon. The fire destroyed or heavily damaged twelve apartments, but fortunately all tenants have been accounted for and there are no reports of any injuries to tenants or firefighters.
Normal Fire Department responded at 1:24 PM to the report of an apartment on fire on the third floor of the three-story complex, which is located near the intersection of Linden Street and Vernon Avenue.
First arriving units reported heavy fire coming from the roof of the structure and immediately called for more resources. A second alarm was struck, which called in off-duty Normal firefighters, and Bloomington Fire Department sent an engine company, two aerial ladder trucks, and a warming/rehabilitation unit.
Firefighters made an aggressive interior attack on the fire initially and began to make progress, however, the fire conditions deteriorated quickly and firefighters transitioned into a defensive mode, which uses large diameter hoses and aerial ladders to spray water into the building from the exterior. The fire quickly consumed the majority of the roof structure, which collapsed into the 3rd floor apartments. The first and second floor units were heavily damaged by fire as well, which traveled inside the walls and void spaces between units. What wasn’t damaged by fire and smoke was heavily damaged by the water that was used to fight the fire.
The fire scene was the second of two major incidents happening simultaneously in Normal, the first being the freight train derailment near Vernon Avenue and Hester Street. To prevent a shortage of manpower at the fire and to cover responses to other calls in the Town, a third alarm was struck, which calls in resources from Bloomington Township, Dale Township, Danvers, Towanda, Carlock, and Hudson Fire Departments. Some resources were utilized at the fire, while others were used to respond to calls for service in Normal while our resources were tied up.
The fire took over two hours to bring under control and required fire crews to rotate in and out of operation due the extreme cold. The sub-freezing temperatures also meant that fire apparatus had to pump water continuously to prevent the pumps and hoses from freezing. Once sprayed, the water created hazardous conditions around the fire ground as it turned to ice.
The building was built prior to the requirement for a fire sprinkler system, but was built with fire walls which extend from the basement to above the roof line and prevent fires from spreading across the attic space through the entire building. Fortunately, firefighters were able to contain the fire to one section of the building and the fire did not break through the fire walls.
In all, twelve apartments are heavily damaged or destroyed. A damage estimate is not available until insurance adjusters are able to survey the damage.
The Sugar Creek Apartments are managed by First Site Apartments and are largely populated with students from Illinois State University. First Site and the University are working with the tenants of the building to secure temporary housing until such time as it is safe to return to the undamaged apartments in the complex.
Firefighters remain on the scene extinguishing hot spots and will likely remain through the night.
Normal Fire Department Investigation Team is already working to determine the origin and cause of the fire.
Normal Fire Department wishes to express our gratitude to Bloomington, Bloomington Township, Dale Township, Danvers, Carlock, Hudson, and Towanda Fire Departments for their support at this incident.
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