Rantoul fire officials said they believe a child playing with a lighter was the cause of a Saturday morning blaze that sent three people to the hospital for observation and displaced residents of seven apartments.
The Rantoul Fire Department was dispatched to a fire call at 1513-A at Abbott Acres Apartments on Hobson Drive at 11:27 a.m.
Fire Chief Ken Waters said heavy smoke was showing from the northwest end of the building, and there were flames inside a bedroom when firefighters arrived.
Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Kaiser said he spoke with the mother and a 2-year-old daughter who lived in the apartment where the fire broke out. He said he was told a 3-year-old boy was playing with a lighter, which caused the fire. Kaiser said he has not yet interviewed the boy.
The mother and two children were transported to the hospital to be checked as a precaution. Kaiser said they had no injuries.
When firefighters arrived, a resident of an apartment neighboring the one on fire was preparing to jump from a second-floor window due to heavy smoke in the halls, and he could not escape down the stairs. Firefighters put a ladder up to the second floor and helped him down.
Due to smoke, heat and water damage to the hallways and some apartments, residents of at least seven apartments were displaced and were assisted by the American Red Cross.
Kaiser said he believes all of the building's residents are still living elsewhere. The apartment complex does not have room to house them there.
"As soon as they can, they're going to clean up the non-fire-affected apartments," Kaiser said of apartment officials.