ROCK FALLS – The water and smoke damage to the apartments at Civic Plaza 1 still is being assessed, and how soon some residents will be able to get back into their homes depends in large part on when the elevator is fixed.
One estimate puts that as soon as Friday, but “who knows for sure?” said Chuck Adams, executive director of the Whiteside County Housing Authority, which owns the public housing building.
The seventh, eighth and ninth floors of the nine-story high rise are unscathed, except for a mild smell of smoke, Adams said.
The fire began around 10:45 p.m. Friday in the fifth-floor apartment of Eunice D. Karr, who died in the blaze. The state fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause, and had no updates Tuesday, a media spokesman said.
Karr, 59, had been a resident only since December, Adams said.
Civic Plaza 1 has 100 one-bedroom apartments, and 104 residents, Adams said.
Many are elderly or disabled, and all followed previous instructions given by Housing Authority staff to stay in their apartment with the door shut, should a fire break out.
It was the building’s alarm system, which is tested regularly, that first notified the fire department of the fire, followed by multiple 911 calls from inside the building, Twin City Fire Command Deputy Chief Mike Dettman said.
Because residents stayed in their rooms and waited for rescue, it made it easier for the fire department to focus on those most vulnerable to the smoke, and get them out first, Adams said.
That safety training probably saved lives Friday night, Dettman said.
That and the cooperation of the multiple police and fire departments that responded, called out in part because Dettman realized it often was going to take two people to get a resident to safety.
“We were very fortunate, with the cooperation of all the various fire departments and police departments, they were extremely helpful getting everyone down the stairs,” Adams said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”
In the wake of the tragedy, multiple community agencies and organizations have come forth to lend a hand.
All four Rock Falls hotels and motels are providing rooms for the displaced – 66 or 67 from Friday night, and a few others who were out of town when the fire struck but now are back, Adams said – the Red Cross and the Housing Authority are providing meals, the Rock Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Police Department collected toiletries, cleaning supplies and other needed items, Happy Tails thrift store opened its doors Tuesday so residents could “shop” for clothing and other needed items, and members of Sauk Valley React, a group of people who rally to help when there is a community emergency, have been checking on residents and helping meet their immediate needs several times a day since the fire, among other efforts.
A fund for cash donations is being set up at Sauk Valley Bank in Rock Falls, and should be ready by Thursday.
“The response from the community wanting to help out the displaced residents from the Civic Plaza 1 fire has been overwhelming,” Rock Falls Chief of Police Dave Pilgrim said in a news release.
“At this time, no further donations of clothing or personal items are being accepted, as the current needs have been met. The distribution of donated goods is being coordinated.”
Pilgrim also asks that people stop bringing clothing and other donations to the hotels, which aren’t equipped to handle them.
According to Sauk Valley Media archives, among others, Karr, formerly of Springfield, Missouri, is survived by a sister, Deborah Celestino of Sterling, and an aunt, Sharon Mager of Tampico.
An autopsy was to be conducted this week.
Source: The Daily Chronicle