Fire in downtown Villa Grove

Fire in downtown Villa Grove

VILLA GROVE -- Fire  destroyed a downtown Villa Grove building Wednesday evening and firefighters from at least 15 fire departments in two counties worked to keep it from spreading to adjacent buildings.

Ross Elston, assistant Villa Grove fire chief, said firefighters were called to a vacant building at 14-16 S. Main St. about 5:30 p.m. When firefighters arrived they found flames and smoke coming from the rear of the building, which once housed Heirloom Upholstery. The building is on the west side of Main Street.

"The smoke was so thick you couldn't see across Route 130, which is a block away (to the east)," said Villa Grove police officer Craig Patton.

Elston said more than a dozen people were evacuated from nearby apartments in the downtown area. Another 20 people were evacuated from JR's Lounge at 18 S. Main St., which has been spared from the fire so far. Also spared from the flames was Dale's Jewelry at 6 S. Main St.

Dale Underwood, owner of the jewelry store, said the burning buildings between his business and JR's Lounge had been vacant and run down for a long time.  Underwood said the burning building collapsed about 6:30 p.m. but the fire wall separating it from his business remained intact. He was worried about smoke and water damage to his business.

While Elston said no one was injured, two or three firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion.

"This is just devastating," said Villa Grove Mayor Thelma "Boots" Blaney. "We hope and pray they can get it confined. Buildings can be rebuilt but people's lives can't.". 

Smoke from the fire could be seen from Windsor Road in Champaign.




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