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Update: Police say all residents now accounted for after Sycamore apartment fire

SYCAMORE – Police said Sunday afternoon that they have made contact with all residents of the building at the St. Albans Green complex that was destroyed by a fire that started Saturday.

Sycamore Deputy Police Chief Michael Anderson said police had a roster of tenants in the buliding at 711 S. Main St. and had succeeded in making contact with all of them.

Authorities were working to put out the flames and piece together what caused the fire, which started around 5:30 p.m. Saturday in a building at complex at 711 S. Main St. The fire sent flames into the night sky for hours, with fire visible inside the building at least as late as 1 a.m. Sunday.

Meanwhile, relief workers said no more community donations were immediately needed to help the roughly 120 people displaced by the fire, although the Family Service Agency of DeKalb County will be accepting donated household items beginning Monday.

“We don’t know if [the fire is] criminal or not at this time,” he said. “… We’re going to meet with the (Illinois State) Fire Marshal’s office this morning and see how quickly we can get into the building and see what we have.”

Fire raged for hours

When firefighters first arrived at the building Saturday evening, they began running hoses from an engine through the main building entrance, up to the second floor, where the smoke was thickest, Sycamore Deputy Fire Chief Todd Turner said. However, they had to leave the building after super-heated air and gas inside caused a violent smoke explosion. Several people reported hearing explosions when the fire started.

Danger inside the building forced firefighters to battle the flames from outside, dividing it into sectors. DeKalb and Hampshire fire departments deployed tower ladder trucks, allowing firefighters to douse the flames from above the building. The St. Charles Fire Department arrived later with an aerial ladder truck, and the Hinckley Fire Department brought a truck with an articulating boom.

About a dozen police officers from Sycamore and DeKalb County assisted at the scene, along with county and city auxiliary officers who directed traffic when Somonauk Road was closed to allow a hose line to be run across it, Anderson said.

Through constant work to contain the flames, firefighters were able to prevent any fire damage to nearby homes, including other buildings in the complex, Turner said. Most of the fire crews from more than 20 departments called to help had cleared the scene by 5 a.m., he said.

The massive amounts of water used to fight the flames was evident from the pool of runoff that had formed in the courtyard of the apartment complex Sunday. The fire had burned the roof off the building and completely destroyed its second floor, although some items might be salvagable from first-floor units, Turner said.

“This is probably one of the biggest fires that Sycamore’s had,” Turner said.

Relief a community effort

Donations to help the relief effort are not currently needed, Red Cross volunteers said. Some, but not many of the residents of the apartment complex had spent the night in the gym at District 427’s Southeast Elementary School across Locust Street.

The outpouring of support for firefighters and fire victims was clear Sunday, as Red Cross volunteers were still picking up cases of bottled water that had been left around the fire scene, and a kiddie pool filled with sports drinks and water bottles sat at the corner of Locust and Lincoln streets.

A man who lived nearby walked into the school gym a little after 6 a.m. to volunteer his help.

“We’ll feed the people that come,” Red Cross volunteer Cindie Waters said. “We’re here for the neighborhood.”

The Family Service Agency, which has actively been working to assist people displaced by recent apartment fires in DeKalb, plans to accept donations of household items on Monday, FSA Executive Director Tynisha Clegg said.

Clegg said she planned to open the agency office at 14 Health Services Drive in DeKalb around 10 a.m. Sunday, and people with urgent needs for clothing would be welcome.

Donations most needed starting Monday will be household items people might have lost, such as toiletries and kitchen items, Clegg said. Sycamore-based Blackhawk Storage was expected to bring a container to the FSA office a on Monday to handle extra items. Clothes are not needed at the moment, Clegg said.

Longer-term, the agency is available to help residents who may have lost everything Saturday’s fire find new housing, Clegg said.

“We’ll continue to provide case management and support to individuals to help find permanent housing,” she said.

The agency can provide support including financial assistance with deposits or the first month’s rent, gift cards for gas and diapers and other needs, Clegg said.

Several Red Cross volunteers, who came from communities as far away as Harvard and Morrison, said they were impressed with the outpouring of community support for firefighters and neighbors.

“The people that came were so gracious last night,” Waters said. “This really is a nice community.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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