On The Job: ILLINOIS

On Friday, Nov. 7, 2008, a three-alarm fire destroyed the historic Metropolitan Building in downtown Champaign, IL. The three-story brick-and-mortar structure, built in 1871, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was...


On Friday, Nov. 7, 2008, a three-alarm fire destroyed the historic Metropolitan Building in downtown Champaign, IL. The three-story brick-and-mortar structure, built in 1871, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was originally known as the Rugg Boot and Leather...


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On Friday, Nov. 7, 2008, a three-alarm fire destroyed the historic Metropolitan Building in downtown Champaign, IL. The three-story brick-and-mortar structure, built in 1871, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building was originally known as the Rugg Boot and Leather Shop. The second-floor ceilings were so high that the building was used for a time by the Champaign High School basketball team for practice space.

At the time of the fire, the building was undergoing extensive renovations and no fire protection or detection systems were in operation. The building was to include commercial space on the first floor and eight apartments and six loft apartments on the second and third floors. A party wall separated the building from an adjoining three-story building to the south occupied by a law firm.

The Champaign Fire Department was dispatched to a reported structure fire at 219 North Neil St. at 5:15 A.M. Engine 151, a 1,500-gpm pumper with a 50-foot telescoping ladder; Engines 152 and 153, both 1,500-gpm pumpers; Ladder 161, a 100-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; Squad 171, a heavy rescue; and Car 110 responded with 15 firefighters under the command of Captain Dave Ferber. Fire Chief Douglas Forsman and Deputy Chiefs Stephen Clarkson, Eric Mitchell and Tim Wild also responded on the first alarm.

At 5:18, first-arriving units found flames shooting 100 feet into the air. Fire was blowing out the second- and third-floor windows on the east side and three-quarters of the length of the north side of the building. Eighteen-inch firebrands were flying through the air landing on buildings up to a block away. Engine 151 was positioned west of the fire on Church Street and supplied by a 200-foot, five-inch line. Squad 171 was also positioned west of the fire on Church Street and its crew assisted the crew of Engine 151 in placing its elevated master stream into service to protect exposures. Engine 151's crew also placed two 2½-inch lines into operation. One line was positioned at street level on the north side of the fire and the other line was advanced to the roof of a two-story building west of the fire.

Ladder 161 was positioned north of the fire building on Neil Street and set up for aerial master stream operations. This unit was supplied by a 600-foot, five-inch line laid by Engine 153 to a hydrant on Neil Street. Engine 152 was positioned east of the fire on Main Street and fed by a 100-foot, five-inch line. Firefighters placed a portable deck gun into operation at the northeast corner of the building supplied with a pair of three-inch supply lines from the engine. Firefighters also placed a 2½-inch handline into operation to protect exposures east of the fire building.

Multiple Alarms

Ferber immediately requested a second alarm upon arrival. Engines 154 and 155, both 1,500-gpm pumpers, and Ladder 164, a 100-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump, responded with eight firefighters. Engine 155, the first second-alarm company to arrive, was positioned in a parking lot south of the fire and placed its deck gun into operation. No additional lines were placed into operation from this engine due to a two-story building between the parking lot and the fire building. This engine was supplied by a 200-foot, five-inch line from a hydrant on Randolph Street. Ladder 164 was positioned on Main Street east of the fire and set up for aerial master stream operations. This aerial was supplied by a 500-foot, five-inch supply line laid by Engine 154 to a hydrant east of the fire on Main Street.

Forsman requested a third alarm at 5:35 A.M. Champaign Engine 156, a 1,500-gpm pumper responded and was positioned south of the fire on Neil Street and was fed by a 200-foot, five-inch line. This engine placed its deck gun into operation. Urbana Fire and Rescue Service responded with Engines 251, 253 and 254, all 1,500-gpm pumpers; Ladder 261, a 100-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; and Car 220 with 13 firefighters under the command of Urbana Division Chief Rusty Chism.

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