URBANA — Urbana fire investigators are trying to figure out what started an early morning fire Tuesday that heavily damaged a duplex in east Urbana.
Fire Chief Mike Dilley said a female graduate student living on one side of the house at 1106 E. Main St. was up studying about 3 a.m. when she smelled smoke. She investigated and found fire on the back porch.
Dilley said that woman banged on the wall and alerted the woman living on the other side of the duplex and both got out safely before firefighters arrived.
"On arrival our guys discovered fire all across the back porch attached to the house," Dilley said.
Although they got the main body of the fire out quickly, it had spread to other parts of the house, requiring firefighters to rip into walls.
"They made a really good, quick knock on it," said Dilley.
About 20 firefighters responded. The single-story duplex is on the north side of East Main Street just east of Cottage Grove, he said.
"There's no doubt it started on the porch," said Dilley.
Later Tuesday, he listed the cause as undetermined.
"I have a lot of loose ends to tie up," he said after sifting through the remains for several hours.
Dilley said the house cannot be lived in but likely can be repaired.
He estimated damage at $45,000. The rental property is owned by Deb Johnson of Urbana, he said.