Blaze's cause not yet known

CHAMPAIGN – The cause of a fire that destroyed a Stark Excavating Inc. maintenance building on Market Street on Friday is yet to be determined, according to the Champaign Fire Department.

The fire ravaged the building at 2000 N. Market St., with smoke rising more than 100 feet above the building and flames still blazing nearly an hour after a 911 call was made at 2:22 p.m.

The fire drew every working fire truck in Champaign and assistance from Urbana. There were no injuries.

Two people were in the building when they discovered the fire, said Champaign Deputy Fire Chief Tim Wild. One was using a grinder and the other an acetylene torch.

"One of our employees turned around, and there was a fire behind him," said Wayne Clayton, Stark's safety director and risk manager.

Clayton said that the building was equipped with fire extinguishers.

Stark employees made sure everyone was out and then made the call, Wild said.

Because of the nature of the business, several flammable items were housed in the building, including oxygen and acetylene tanks, several of which exploded.

The fire department worked from outside to extinguish the fire and cool the building to keep further objects from exploding.

A broken fire hydrant opposite the building delayed the first truck from getting water there, Wild said, but the second truck to arrive was able to use a working hydrant to combat the blaze.

The fire also blew out two circuit breakers near the building, causing some local power outages.

To keep the roads next to the building clear while the firefighters worked, police cleared five blocks of Market Street adjacent to the fire site, as well as the eastbound entry to Marketview Drive from Neil Street.

Approximately an hour after the 911 call, Wild called the building a total loss.

As for the Stark employees, "everyone's a little disheveled at this time, but we'll regroup and rebuild," Clayton said. "We're a very progressive business here in Champaign, and we'll be staying."

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