It took more than eight hours to battle a fire that broke out just as the business day was starting Friday.
Three West-Central Illinois fire departments were called to fight an apartment building fire in downtown Mt. Sterling. The building at 115 South Capitol in the city's downtown area housed offices on the lower level and apartments upstairs. Now it's all gone.
Mt. Sterling Police Chief Brandon Norris says the call came in around 8 a.m. Norris says the rear side and roof were fully engulfed with flames when crews arrived on scene.
Highway 24 was closed around noon at Southwest Cross St.
Firefighters at the scene said they were worried one side of the building could fall down.
The fire appeared to be concentrated around an upstairs apartment balcony before eventually spreading, according to Robert Zimmerman, who happened to drive by and see the fire.
"It first looked like the door was burning. Then, the balcony was on fire," Zimmerman said. "Smoke was just pouring out of the roof of the building."
Norris said approximately eight people were evacuated from the building.
"My girlfriend woke me up, telling me there are a bunch of fire trucks outside, and I got up, went to check to see what's going on," Clayton Canada said. "Well as you can see, lots of smoke and fireman around said that the place was burning and we needed to get out of the building."
Canada says once he realized his apartment was on fire, the first thing he thought about was his daughters.
"Get out, get the kids out, because I had two little girls in there," Clayton said.
Mt. Sterling Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Dunn says when he got there, the fire had already spread.
"It was coming out the back room, second story on this back by the deck, hit it with a first attack line, and got it out, except it had already extended into the attic," Dunn said.
Dunn says the fire was a lot to handle, and required help from several neighboring fire departments.
"Pretty major, just for the things, that during the day time short staffing and getting the equipment in when you call another department in, it might be 10, 15 minutes away," Dunn said.
Mayor Dane Flesner says Bruce Muccollah and Ameren CIPS lent some boom trucks to help firefighters reach the flames.
"There could have been more involved but just from what I saw, it was just those two and that was very vital to get some people up in the air like that, so we are very appreciative of that," Flesner said.
Despite the seriousness of the fire, no injuries have been reported.
"I'm glad everyone made it out without being hurt," Canada said.
While some people knew the building as an apartment and office building, any Mt. Sterling residents first knew it as a funeral home. But Brown County Public Library's Margaret Scranton offered some insight into the building's history even before that.
Scranton says in the early years, the north side first housed a tavern, and then a meat market before becoming a chicken and produce market. It then became a restaurant and cone shop. In 1902, it was used as a funeral home. A display room and chapel were added in a remodel in 1934. The building got a new front in 1949, and in 1963, the room to the north was bought to enlarge funeral service facilities. Since 1970, the building has been used for offices and apartments.
Firefighters still didn't know what caused the fire Friday evening, but the Illinois State Fire Marshal office was scheduled to investigate Saturday.
Fire crews from Mt. Sterling, Clayton and Versailles responded to the scene.