Champaign firefighter recovering from injuries

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign firefighters are pulling for one of their own injured in an early morning fire Saturday that destroyed a business.

Champaign Fire Chief Doug Forsman reported that Lt. Jeff Lattz is recovering from injuries he sustained when he was going up to a second floor of a house behind the restaurant at 40 E. Springfield Ave.

Lattz, 40, had gone in the building to make sure the resident of the apartment and his fellow firefighters were out.

"The fire was in concealed spaces, and it just emerged all at once," Forsman said.

Lattz was in front of another firefighter as they headed up a stairwell. Being higher, the heat blast hit Lattz and not his fellow crew member, Forsman explained.

Lattz received burns to his face and ears and breathed in superheated gases, the chief said.

He was taken to the burn unit of Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. On Saturday afternoon, his condition was listed as serious. By Tuesday, the hospital was not giving out any information on him, which is a right that patients have.

"His colleagues are keeping in touch and helping the family. He has young children," Forsman said.

"We do expect him to fully recover," said Forsman, adding Lattz would be able to return to work, but he didn't know when. He has been on the department 18 years.

Meantime, Fire Marshal John Koller said the report about the fire to the Layalina Mediterranean Grill was still not complete Tuesday.

Koller said Saturday it appeared the fire started in a wall of the two-story house that was attached to the single-story restaurant.

Out of concern for public safety, city officials made the decision that same day to level the remains, making it impossible for fire investigators to ever find a definite cause.

The fire was reported about 2:45 a.m. and was mostly out within a couple of hours but smoldered long after.

Koller said the owner of the property is William Burgess of Philo.

The owner of the restaurant, which opened for business Nov. 1, was Hamada Saleh. Neither could be reached for comment.

Forsman said the building was insured, but he did not know if the business was.

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