Fire destroys school building in Rankin

 

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RANKIN — A dilapidated grade school building in Rankin that had been targeted for cleanup by the village and Vermilion County Public Health Department was destroyed by fire early Saturday morning.

Firefighters from Rankin, Hoopeston and Cissna Park responded to the blaze at the three-story brick building in the 200 block of North Johnson Street around 4 a.m., said Chris Bleich, assistant fire chief for the Rankin Fire Protection District.

None of the structure was standing by the time firefighters cleared the scene around 9:45 a.m., Bleich said, calling the building a total loss.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, and an investigator for the Illinois State Fire Marshal's Office was called to assist in the investigation, Bleich said.

Two months ago, the village board heard concerns from residents about the condition of the building during a public hearing held on the matter. The building was considered not just an eyesore but a potential safety and health hazard by village officials.

The building is owned by Rankin resident Herbert Polchow, who was fined $500 after being found guilty last December of an ordinance violation in relation to the building's deteriorating condition.

Doug Toole, administrator of the Vermilion County Public Health Department, told the board that Polchow was to continue to be fined until he cleans up the property.

Polchow's brother, Gary, told the board that the building was to be torn down and turned into a new school for special-needs children and adults.

"We have investors involved," he said.

Warren asked each board member for his or her opinion on what to do with the building, and all said they would like to see it torn down and the property cleaned up, but not at the village's expense.