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Cause of Normal apartment fire still under investigation

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NORMAL — Investigators have not yet released a cause for Saturday’s multi-alarm blaze at Sugar Creek Apartments at 606 S. Linden St. in Normal.

The fire destroyed or heavily damaged 12 apartments during a busy weekend for firefighters in which they also handled a massive train derailment in uptown Normal, and handled a Sunday morning fire related to that.

The Normal Fire Department was called to the apartment complex at 1:24 p.m. Saturday. Fire was reported on the top floor of the three-story building, said fire department spokesman Matt Swaney.

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.

Normal firefighters brave frigid temperatures to fight a fire that displaced 12 apartments at 600 S. Linden Street.

“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,” Swaney said. “The fire quickly consumed the majority of the roof structure, which collapsed into the third 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.”

Because the department was dealing with the derailment, 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 used at the fire, while others were used to respond to calls for service in Normal.

Watch now: No injuries in Linden Street apartment fire; cause still unknown

Swaney said the fire took more than two hours to bring under control and, because of the extreme cold, water had to pump 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,” he reported.

The building was built before the requirement for a fire sprinkler system, but was built with fire walls that 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.

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 it is safe to return to the undamaged apartments in the complex.

Contact Kevin Barlow at (309) 820-3238. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_barlow


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Related to this story

Investigators are still searching for a cause to Saturday’s morning train derailment in uptown Normal, which damaged at least 16 cargo cars on a Union Pacific train. Cleanup and repair on the track will continue this week, but one of the two lines is now open and trains have been moving through town.

Some residents in Normal have noticed a strange coloring in the water of Sugar Creek, but officials say there is no risk. "The material has been identified as non-toxic water-soluble paint that was in one of the (train) trailers that was involved in the fire,” officials said.

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