HIGHLAND, Ill. (KMOV.com) – Authorities say a couple removing a Christmas tree from their home caused a one-alarm fire that destroyed an apartment complex in Highland, Illinois Tuesday.
Officials said firefighters responded after flames broke out at the apartment complex in the 1200 block of El Kay Court around 11:50 a.m. The Highland fire chief told News 4 the fire started while a couple was removing a dead Christmas tree from the building. According to the chief, the tree caught fire in a hallway and the fire spread quickly.
Firefighters said initial reports suggested people were trapped inside the building, but officials later determined that everyone made it out. Authorities said multiple residents were inside their apartments when the fire started.
Two people were taken St. Joseph’s Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation. They were later released.
It took firefighters a couple hours to extinguish the flames as they fought hot spots and flare-ups.
While fire crews tried to knock down the flames several residents stood nearby - some clutching family pets – watching and hoping the fire could be controlled so there would be something left of their apartments.
“...The only thing I was concerned about we have a bunch of irreplaceable family pictures,” said Anna Wilson, who escaped with her husband and their dog.
She heard a commotion in the hallway upstairs.
“I heard all this thumping, and I thought what’s going on and Gary, my husband, said something’s going on outside,” said Wilson. “By the time I got out to the hall they were pounding on our way, basically almost breaking it down saying get out there’s a fire.”
The fire chief says the building had no fire stops in the attic. Flames made their way through the walls. At one point crews opened the roof to let out smoke and heat, and flames shot up again.
Crews were pumping two thousand gallons a minute onto the fire at one point. For those who were hoping something could be saved, the chief says it’s unlikely.