Cause of downtown Galesburg fire remains undetermined; city says demo won’t interfere with investigation

Demolition work continues Wednesday on a fire-damage building at 149-151 E. Main St.
Demolition work continues Wednesday on a fire-damage building at 149-151 E. Main St. (JAY REDFERN/WGIL)

Fire investigators have yet to determine the cause of a fiRe that’s led to the partial demolition of a downtown Galesburg building.

However, Galesburg Fire Department personnel have determined the fire at 149-151 E. Main St. on Monday morning started on the third floor of the 3-story building.

According to fire officials, the third floor of the structure includes one apartment unit and a large open space. Three individuals were present in the third-floor apartment unit at the time of the fire, and all self-evacuated. One occupant self-transported to the hospital and was treated for smoke inhalation. All tenants from the second-floor apartments also made it out of the building safely.

Investigators have been unable to determine the cause of the fire at this time due to the amount of damage and instability of the structure. Fire officials have interviewed and will continue to stay in contact with the three individuals who were known to be in the involved apartment at the time of the fire.

The fire cause is undetermined at this time, and the investigation remains open.

The structure has two businesses on the first floor, and residential units on the second and third floors.

“We are saddened by the loss of two pets, but very thankful that action was taken swiftly and effectively by the Fire Department, resulting in no human lives being lost,” said Galesburg City Manager Eric Hanson.

“The city continues to investigate the cause of the fire, as well as communicate daily with the property management company to ensure the needed demolition and/or repair of the structure is handled as safely as possible.”

According to the news release, the City of Galesburg had previously received complaints from the tenants in one unit on the second floor of the building regarding the condition of the property managed by Macomb Rentals, and owned by 61401 Galesburg, LLC.

The city investigated the complaints through multiple rental inspections and provided the building owner/management company with the findings of those inspections and requested corrections. The unit which was the subject of prior complaints was not the unit in which the fire originated and was unoccupied at the time of the fire.

Efforts by the property management company to remediate the complaints were ongoing.

City building officials evaluated the property on the afternoon of the fire, as well as the morning after to stay abreast of the building condition and public safety. Based on those inspections, as well as inspections by the contractor hired by the building owner, it was determined the structural integrity of the building was compromised due to the weight of the water and fire damaged roof, and support beam.

At that time, the property owner and property management company made the decision to apply for an emergency demolition permit through the State of Illinois, in order to demolish the very top portion of the building for safety purposes. The removal of the roof and top portion of the building does not impede or interfere with the remaining components of the fire investigation and was necessary to stabilize the building for the safety of the surrounding area.

“The most important factor in any fire is the safety of the occupants and firefighters battling the blaze,” said Fire Chief Randy Hovind. “It is certainly unfortunate that this fire occurred, for the occupants, the downtown business community, and our community as a whole.

“We are grateful no lives were lost, will move forward with a full investigation, and take what we can from this fire to plan for the future.”

The downtown building has been stabilized, and the next steps are currently being analyzed and determined by the property owner, 61401 Galesburg, LLC.

According to the news release, the City of Galesburg will continue to communicate with the property owner to ensure the safety of nearby streets and sidewalks, and provide assistance as needed to further a quick and safe resolution to the fire damaged building downtown.