Dumpster fire on Green Street still being investigated

The source of a fire that started in a trash bin outside the apartment building at 306 E. Green St. early Saturday morning is still being investigated, Champaign Fire Department officials said.

Lt. John Hocking said investigators have determined that the fire was human-caused but not whether there was malicious intent.

“There is a lot of debris on campus right now from all the people moving in,” Hocking said. “It’s important to keep all that debris away from … any ignition sources.”

The emergency, which lasted about an hour and a half, was reported to the Champaign Fire Department around midnight. The fire was found soaring out of the trash bin, which spread toward overhead balconies.

Firefighters then evacuated Green Street between Third and Fourth streets nearest to the Roland Realty apartment complex.

Resident Dan Berger, sophomore in DGS, was getting ready to head out for the night when he noticed the flames leaping out of the trash bin right beneath his apartment’s balcony.

“My initial reaction was to try and grab as much as I could,” he said. “It was very surreal seeing our balcony engulfed in flames.”

Berger said the emergency responders quickly evacuate the building and estimated that everyone was cleared out in under five minutes.

Customers of IHOP, the building adjacent to the apartment, were also evacuated as a precaution immediately after the fire was spotted.

Manager Jenny Kroncke said customers and staff tried to remain calm as they exited.

“After we were out, people were still trying to pay their bills,” Kroncke said. “We didn’t accept their money, though;­ that wouldn’t be fair in this situation.”

She said everyone was evacuated in time and nobody suffered any injuries.

Bystander Kendall Rodheim, sophomore in LAS, was walking down Green Street when emergency responders began blocking off the road.

“People were being evacuated everywhere,” she said. “The apartment was being evacuated, the IHOP next to it was being evacuated — I didn’t realize the fire was that bad.”

Hocking said evacuating the location is the most important safety precaution during a fire. Hocking said after extinguishing the flames, firefighters discovered there was irreversible smoke and water damage to the interior and exterior of the building.

“The smoke damages were the result of the rising flames,” he said. “The water damages, however, were caused by the building’s sprinkler system, which was activated when the fire spread.”

Hocking was not certain about how much the building’s damages would cost Roland Realty but estimated that most of the damages will total over $10,000.

“It all depends on how they choose to deal with the repairs,” he said.

Roland Realty was not available at press time.

Berger said that after evacuating, residents of the apartment complex were moved to the Hawthorn Suites, 101 Trade Center Drive. As their apartments are being repaired, Roland Realty is relocating them to another apartment complex on Third and Chalmers streets. Berger said the repairs are expected to be finished by the end of the week.