DANVILLE — Investigators have not yet determined an official cause of the weekend fire that destroyed the Oaklawn Inn annex on East Main Street but believe it may have been accidental, according to Public Safety Director Larry Thomason.
Danville firefighters were called at about 11 p.m. Saturday to the fire at the hotel annex, which houses people on a short-term and long-term basis. Flames were showing when the first firefighters arrived on the scene at the hotel annex at the northwest corner of National and Main streets. The main hotel building is at 1824 E. Main St.
Thomason said because of the intensity of the fire, the crews immediately went to a defensive position as opposed to trying to enter the building. He said Danville police immediately began working to track down all of the more than 20 people who were living there, and by 1:45 a.m. police had accounted for everyone. No one, including firefighters, were injured, he said, but it took the department about four hours to bring it under control.
Thomason said firefighters called in a backhoe at about 2:30 a.m. to tear out a wall, allowing crews to get water into a hot sport at the center of the building and extinguish the flames. Thomason said the department has had to call in similar equipment in other fires, and by 3 p.m. the fire was under control.
Thomason said the cause is still under investigation, but investigators don't suspect arson, and indications are that it started in a storage room in the building, which is owned by Roger Patel.
Erin Miller, communications coordinator with the American Red Cross in central Illinois, said a staff member and volunteer from the Champaign-Urbana area assisted 26 people late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. She said the 26 were given food and clothing, but no housing assistance was necessary, because the Oaklawn Inn had other space for those who were not going to stay with friends or family.