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Sugar Creek Apartment Fire Caused By Repair Work

Fire crews battling apartment fire
Charlie Schlenker
The Normal Fire Department determined the fire at Sugar Creek Apartments was accidental.

The Normal Fire Department said Tuesday the blaze that heavily damaged or destroyed 12 units at the Sugar Creek Apartments on Saturday was caused by repair work being done inside a lower-level apartment.The fire caused the roof to collapse and caused substantial damage throughout the building. Crews spent much of Saturday afternoon battling the blaze, after spending much of the morning cleaning up a nearby train derailment.

Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer said in a news release the apartment fire spread inside the walls and void spaces and extended into the attic before the fire department arrived.

Several residents told WGLT they did not hear fire alarms go off at the time of the blaze. 

Fire department spokesperson Matt Swaney said the building doesn’t have a central fire alarm system. He said since each apartment has its own exterior exit door, it’s not required.

“The tricky part with this fire was it was inside of a lot of void spaces where there wouldn’t have been traditional smoke detection either way,” Swaney said. “The old firefighter banging on the door saying, 'You have to get out of here' is the next best option in those situations and that’s what we did.”

Swaney said the building also predates the sprinkler system requirement for that type of building.

Several displaced students told WGLT the building's manager, First Site, provided temporary housing in local hotels.

The Normal Fire Department issued several reminders following the blaze: test smoke and carbon monoxide alarms every month, replace detectors after 10 years, have at least one fire alarm at each level of every home, close all bedroom doors before going to sleep to allow more time to escape in the event of a fire, and have two ways out of every room used for sleeping.

Humer said insurance adjusters are working with the building owners to determine a damage estimate.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.