BLOOMINGTON — A firefighter was injured and up to a dozen people were left homeless after fire ravaged an apartment building Saturday afternoon on Bloomington’s east side.
The cause of the fire at 1101 Gettysburg Drive has not yet been determined. The Bloomington Fire Department was still supervising the scene at 10 p.m. Saturday, but streets surrounding the area were reopened to traffic. BPD asked drivers to "avoid the immediate area … until the fire department has concluded their work."
“The cold (weather) caused us to add resources. We are cycling guys because they’re wet and cold. We called in off-duty firefighters to cycle them so the others would have a chance to warm up,” said Bloomington Fire spokesman Stuart Blade
The two-story building with 12 units appeared to be a total loss and firefighters stayed away from part of the building that appeared to be on the verge of collapse by early evening.
Blade said firefighters rescued a cat from the building and two Connect Transit buses took residents to the nearby Red Cross office, where workers offered warm drinks and blankets while they collected family information.
Blade said the injured firefighter was treated at a local hospital, but his name and cause of his injury were not available.
Resident Derrick Dawson, who lived in No. 5, said he was in the kitchen making lunch for his kids when he smelled something burning. When he went outside, he saw smoke coming from an apartment door and yelled to get his wife and kids out. He said he saw flames "busting out of Apartment 10."
The fire was reported about 3:20 p.m.
“We’re not sure how or where the fire started yet,” Blade said around 4:20 p.m. “At this point, we’re going for the defensive and taking an external attack. We started inside but then needed to pull back.”
East Empire Street was closed between Hershey and Prospect roads for most of the evening, and heavy smoke at times completely blocked visibility at the Empire-Prospect intersection.
The fire drew a crowd of residents and bystanders, with neighbors offering blankets and coats.
Firefighters from Bloomington and Normal used at least two ladder trucks in fighting the blaze, and broke windows on both floors to get at the fire and to vent smoke. Cold temperatures caused some of the water to freeze on the parking lot and sidewalks.
Red Cross volunteers are providing comfort and care to 29 Bloomington residents who were displaced by the fire this afternoon.
Faculty from Stevenson School and others in the community are also helping those displaced by the fire through 5 p.m. Sunday.
Thanks to everyone who is providing assistance to those affected.
The Red Cross helps in emergencies large and small. To donate to the local chapter, visit http://www.redcross.org/local/illinois/central-and-southern/ways-to-donate.
Smoke detectors save lives. Test your detectors every month and change batteries every six months.