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Video: Crews Fight Large Apartment Fire In Normal

UPDATED 8:35 p.m. | Crews worked the scene of a large fire that destroyed or heavily damaged 12 apartment units Saturday afternoon in Normal.

The fire happened around 1:24 p.m. at the Sugar Creek Apartments near Linden Street and Vernon Avenue, according to the Normal Fire Department. 

Fire Chief Mick Humer said all apartments tenants have been accounted for and there were no reported injuries to residents or to firefighters. 

Humer said the much of apartment building roof collapsed onto the third-floor apartments, adding the first and second-floor units also were heavily damaged by fire. 

"What wasn't damaged by smoke and fire was heavily damaged by the water that was used to fight the fire," Humer said. 

Illinois State University nursing major Liz Williams was one of the displaced third-floor residents. She said she was awakened from a nap when a Normal police officer knocked on her door to alert her of the fire. She said the fire alarm in her apartment unit did not go off.

Williams said she could see smoke approaching from a nearby stairwell. She said flames reached her apartment within minutes of her escape.

“It was a very big adrenaline rush since I got woken up and I was not properly clothed and I didn’t think to grab anything else,” Williams said.

Police asked Williams if she knew her neighbors and if she could contact them. Their neighbors weren’t there at the time of the fire.

Humer said First State Apartments, which manages the complex, is working to secure temporary housing for the displaced tenants. 

Williams said some students are being temporarily housed at a hotel in Normal. Williams said she is staying with her boyfriend and is not allowed back in because her apartment was smoke damaged.

Williams said she has renter’s insurance.

Illinois State University sent buses to the complex, apparently to relocate students impacted by the fire. 

Crews battle freezing cold

Humer said it took fire crews over two hours to get the blaze under control and fire crews had to be rotated in because of the subfreezing cold. 

Bloomington Fire crews also were assisting at the scene.

"The cold weather is posing undesirable conditions for crews at the scene," the Bloomington Firefighters Union-IAFF Local 49 said on Facebook.

The temperature was below 10 degrees all day on Saturday. 

Humer said fire crews also had to pump water continously to prevents the pumps and hoses from freezing. 

"Once sprayed, the water created hazardous conditions around the fire ground as it turned to ice," Humer said. 

Humer said fire crews are expected to remain on scene through the night extinguishing hot spots. He said a damage estimate is not yet available.  

Humer said the cause of the fire is under investigation. 

The fire broke out several hours after a train derailment several blocks away that has kept emergency responders busy most of the day.


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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.