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Early morning fire in downtown Watseka

Two businesses and seven people in three apartments were displaced by an early morning fire in downtown Watseka July 5.

Watseka Deputy Fire Chief Nick Peters said firefighters were dispatched at 5:33 a.m. The fire was at Fourth and Walnut.

“The first units on the scene found a second floor apartment with fire showing out two of the windows,” he said. “Initial reports were that the occupants had got out of all three apartments. It took some time to confirm that and we did confirm that everybody had been evacuated by themselves. There were seven people total who got displaced out of those three apartments.

“The interior crews worked on trying to get the fire out and then due to conditions inside the building we ended up having to back out and went to a defensive operation.

“We have kept it to the main fire building,” he said. The fire did not extend into the Edward Jones building, he said, though there was some smoke damage caused by the the fire department “just making sure no fire extended through the walls.” Gary’s Barber Shop and Travel Discoveries, which were in the building where the fire occurred, got heavy smoke and water damage.

 

Peters said the second floor has extensive damage. “The roof has come down in the middle part off this building, so the roof is compromised,” he said. He could not say if the building would be considered a total loss as of prestige.

Ameren was called to cut the power, he said. “We had to have Ameren cut the power due to the closeness that our tower ladders were operating to the high tension power lines here,” he said. For most of the morning several businesses in the downtown area were closed because of that.

In all, 17 fire departments responded, coming from as far away as Kankakee City, Aroma Park and Hoopeston. “Kankakee came with a tower ladder,” he said. “We went to a third box alarm with our MABAS box alarms, so that brought in all the help we needed,” he said.

“We did have one firefighter who was transported to IMH for heat-related issues. That was really the only injury we had here. There were no civilian injuries.”

By mid-morning the fire was contained. Firefighters were able to help business owners get in to help them get crucial items out of their buildings. Crews were then upstairs checking for hotspots to make sure everything was under control, he said. Also by mid-morning fire departments were being released to go back to their home stations as the situation was contained.

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