Residents and business owners began to salvage what they could Friday morning after an overnight fire in downtown Mendota rendered at least four buildings a total loss.
A few precious items survived. Firefighters were able to rescue a suitcase filled with important immigration papers for one family and a few pets from UJ Pet store.
One significant find was when a bearded dragon was discovered at about 11 a.m. Friday to have survived the night’s fire. Co-owner Andora Cearnes said she knew some fish had survived, but the bearded dragon was a total surprise and brought her to tears.
Despite the happiness of finding some pets had survived, a nine-year-old tortoise, which served as a kind of mascot for the pet shop, was lost in the fire.
Cearnes estimated $30,000 worth of damage from the fire.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Cearnes said.
Mendota Fire Chief Dennis Rutishauser said the station received the call at about 9 p.m. Thursday night. When firefighters arrived on the scene, smoke was coming out of 710 Illinois Ave. When the smoke started to build and move, more resources were called through the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System.
The fire escalated to a four to five MABAS alarm and an EMS fourth alarm. Multiple ambulances were called to the scene. Rutishauer confirmed Friday morning residents escaped the fire safely and no firefighters were injured.
He said the four buildings affected the most by the fire are a total loss. The fire was stopped at 704 Illinois Ave., and Rutishauer said that building may or may not be demolished.
In the four buildings, there was UJ Pet store, multiple apartments and a Nightengales Thrift storage area. Another portion of the buildings were being renovated and another was a new coffee shop that had not yet opened.
Once the Illinois State Fire Marshal completes the investigation and the rest of the salvageable items are retrieved, the area will be fenced off. The affected part of Illinois Avenue is closed, along with parts of nearby Jefferson Street.
Thursday night’s fire is the second in downtown Mendota this year. An August fire resulted in the loss of another nearby block of downtown buildings. The fire is under investigation and there’s no known cause at this time.
Source: The Daily Chronicle
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