Multiple fire departments contain Westville blaze to building where it started

Multiple fire departments contain Westville blaze to building where it started

WESTVILLE — A long list of mostly volunteer fire departments successfully contained a major fire that threatened Westville's downtown business district to a single apartment building Monday.

Billowing smoke was visible at least several blocks away soon after the blaze started around 12:45 p.m. Monday, according to witnesses and emergency personnel, who descended on the scene from all over Vermilion County and even Champaign County to assist Westville with the blaze that started in a second-floor apartment at the back of a downtown building.

Westville Fire Chief Gary Wright said a woman was the only person there at the time of the blaze, and she got out safely. People in businesses and other apartments in the downtown area were also evacuated.

The fire shut down all lanes of Illinois 1 (State Street) in the city's downtown, from Main Street to East Williams Street. Fire trucks and water trucks from more than a dozen departments filled State Street, including a Danville ladder truck called in to douse the blaze from above. Savoy also brought over a ladder truck to help fight the fire from above. Wright said that was very helpful, because the fire had progressed so far that they couldn't get inside the building to fight it.

To ensure Westville didn't run out of water, Wright said departments with tankers were hauling it to the scene. One of those trucks from the Kickapoo Fire Protection District crashed en route to the scene, colliding with a passenger vehicle at the intersection of Illinois 1 and Ross Lane, north of Westville near Tilton. That also snarled traffic, shutting down the two southbound lanes of Illinois 1 and reducing the northbound traffic to one lane. Three people, including two firefighters in the tanker, were injured in that accident, but Wright said he thought all three suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Maple and Jan L'Efant and Sharon Lodas Beauvois were driving back into Westville from the grocery store in Tilton shortly after the blaze started. As they approached the downtown area on their way to Dollar General, Jan L'Efant said they saw the smoke and huge flames coming from the apartment just behind the row of store front buildings on the east side of State Street and pulled over near the State Farm insurance office as the first Westville fire truck arrived on the scene.

"We saw smoke billowing," Maple L'Efant said.

Jan L'Efant said the smoke was blowing across State Street and flames were shooting into the air.

Wright said it appears the fire was accidental and started in the bedroom of a second-floor apartment at the back of the downtown building that has a business on the first floor, Top Club P.C. and Products. He didn't disclose exactly how the fire accidentally started.

The front of the building is one of the storefronts on the east side of State Street in downtown Westville. Latoz Hardware and CMS Accounting and Tax Service are just to the north. The entire building, including the apartments and the part containing the computer business, is owned by Wayne Bryant of Westville.

He said the apartment portion of the building is a total loss, but the rest of the building only suffered water damage. He said another building to the south suffered smoke damage.

Terra Holler said her boyfriend, Dustin Holt of Clinton, Ind., owned the business, Top Club P.C. and Products. They were both at the scene of the fire, anxiously waiting to see what damage the contents suffered. Holler said Holt had been leasing the space since February of last year. She said he was not at the building at the time of the blaze and wasn't able to get inside to salvage anything.

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BruckJr wrote on February 13, 2018 at 2:02 pm