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home : coal city courant : coal city courant May 26, 2016

3/19/2013 10:07:00 PM
Cause of fire undetermined, investigation continues
Reduced to rubble—All that's left of 235 E. Oak Street is the fragmented brick and timber.
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Reduced to rubble—All that's left of 235 E. Oak Street is the fragmented brick and timber.
Ann Gill

There's still a faint smell of smoke in the air and from time to time flames shoot up through the fragmented brick and timber. The smoldering debris is all that is left of 235 E. Oak Street.

Just before midnight, 11:52 p.m. to be exact, on Wednesday, March 13, a single 911 call came into the Grundy County Dispatch Center advising that the manufacturing building at the east end of Oak Street was on fire.

As firefighters left the station they could see a glow coming from the area, and as the first trucks rolled onto the scene fire was visible through the roof at the back of the building.

The building currently housed two businesses-American Cast Stone and PipeBlocks. According to village records it is owned by Don Robertson of Long Grove.

As crews began working the fire additional units were called in to assist. At 2 a.m. the fire was at a third alarm due to limited water supply in the area, the size of the structure and the amount of fire. By 4 a.m. it was elevated to a fifth with inter-divisional help being requested, according to Nick Doerfler, the Coal City Fire Protection District's public information officer.

Firefighters from some 20 departments were on the scene to provide support, some brought ladder trucks while others tendered water from multiple locations. Doerfler estimates there were about 45 pieces of equipment.

Based on information the department had on the types of businesses located within the structure, the materials stored on the property and the building's construction, crews initiated defensive tactics immediately. Doerfler said firefighters did not enter the building.

Tower trucks were staged around the building streaming water onto the structure below, while firefighters worked through the night manning the large yellow hoses. Around 7:15 a.m. the alarm was struck and responding companies were released. Coal City firefighters remained on the scene putting out hot spots.

Rekindles have sent firefighters back to the scene several times.

"That's not uncommon with this type of fire, with the amount of debris its hard to get in," Doerfler said.

The fire remains under investigation by MABAS 15 fire investigators and the Illinois Fire Marshal's office. Doerfler said it could take some time to determine the cause. What officials do know is that the fire originated at the back of the building on the southeast side.

Doerfler said there were chemicals in the building, but there was no exposure and the materials were not the type that would cause an explosion. No injuries were reported.

Village officials received word around 1 a.m. that the fire department was working a large scale fire and it would require a significant amount of water.

Village water superintendent Tyler Valiente began monitoring usage and when the firefighting efforts consumed more than 850,000 gallons of the town's supply, the department was cut off in order to maintain acceptable storage levels and avoid a boil order.

Water was then trucked in from the village of Diamond and city of Braidwood, crews were also siphoning it from the Coal City Area Club lake.

Village maintenance workers were sent out to open water valves and spread salt on the water soaked roads. Maintenance workers also assisted in the firefighting efforts by knocking down the building's walls.

As fire trucks were moving around town, Coal City Police officers assisted with traffic control.

Coal City Police Chief Tom Best said his officers will continue to provide aid to the fire department by assisting in the investigation as requested and providing extra patrol of the building.

Barricades have been installed around the structure and individuals are to avoid the area. Best said any unauthorized individual found on the property will be charged with criminal trespass.

The building has been declared a total loss, but at this time the damage is still being estimated.

Illinois Central Sch Buss

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