Fire reported at 901 S Fourth St. in Champaign

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Jacob Slabosz

CU fire department post outside 901 S. Fourth St. as residents evacuate the building on Thursday. The fire was caused by a trash bin catching flame in an apartment which alerted the fire department but the bin was put out through the unit’s sprinkler system.

By Aidan Sadovi, Staff Writer

A fire was reported at 901 S. Fourth St. on Thursday night, leading to the evacuation of the Midway apartment complex and Illini Inn, a bar below the complex. 

Champaign fire and Urbana fire were called to 901 S. Fourth St. for a report of a fire in an apartment with a sprinkler head activation, according to Champaign Deputy fire Marshal Jeremy Mitchell. 

Mitchell said the activation of sprinklers let the department know the fire was not a false alarm which he said they get “a lot.” 

“We got inside, and found that there was a trash can on fire, the sprinkler had put it out, so there’s more water and smoke damage in the apartment than fire damage,” Mitchell said. 

As for a cause, Mitchell said there “might have been some inappropriate disposal of some candles or some smoking material that wound up being the cause of the fire.” 

William Delaney, who lives across the hall from the apartment where the fire allegedly started, said the alarm that initially went off was “the one in the apartment that does not call up the fire department or anything,” as opposed to the “one in the hallways that sets off the entire building.”

Delaney said the first alarm was “going off for a little while.”

James Barrowman, who also lives in the building and who works for The Daily Illini, said he and Delaney talked to a neighbor after they heard the first fire alarm go off and smelled the fire. 

“We were all just like, yeah, ‘Probably something going on,’ and then the actual alarms went off, and that’s when he (Delaney) saw everything.”

Delaney, as Barrowman said, also saw some of the fire itself.

“At one point they used a fire extinguisher, which causes the whole building to set off. I look inside and I see a big fire on their kitchen counter” Delaney said. “We ran outside, I called 911, and told them about the fire, and then everything is how it turned out.” 

Delaney said there was a lot of smoke and described seeing a “really tall, kind of thin” flame.

“I caught some of the smoke and it kind of hurt in my lungs,” he said.

Clusters of people from both the apartments and the bar lined the sidewalk after they were evacuated.

One person who lived in the apartment and who was waiting on the street said they were there since they received an Illini Alert about the fire, and was waiting for word about when they could be let back in. 

“I’m just worried I won’t have a place tonight to sleep,” they said around 9:30 p.m. 

One bar patron, Michael Rogers, said they were inside and ordering drinks when the alarms went off. 

“Cops came in and they were like ‘everyone needs to evacuate’ … people were carrying axes,” Rogers said. 

The bar eventually returned to normal, though residents were still left waiting outside the apartment until they were let back in around 10 p.m. 

According to James Barrowman, a property manager in the building said that ‘all the floors under the fourth floor may have water damage and electrical problems.

 

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