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Investigation into cause of fire at vacant building begins, property owner plans to tear it down

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 6:51 PM CDT
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QUINCY (WGEM) - Investigators on Thursday began looking into what caused a vacant building fire Wednesday in Quincy.

The fire was at 430 S. 7th Street.

Firefighters remained on scene throughout the night Wednesday into Thursday as they worked to put out hotspots.

Quincy Fire Department Deputy Chief Steve Salrin said they left an aerial device so they could continue throwing water on the fire.

Salrin said the vacant building caught fire about 5:45 p.m., but no one was hurt.

“We got on scene we actually had heavy smoke and fire upon our arrival, uh, they could see it from leaving their station,” Salrin said.

You could see the fire for miles Wednesday evening, and from WGEM’s tower cam.

One neighbor, Samantha Dupont, said she only noticed the fire because she was already outside at the time.

“Yeah, I was actually living down the street, getting my security cameras set up and I saw emergency services coming down to do what they do best,” Dupont said.

Fire officials on scene Thursday morning say that the fire burned the first, second, and third floors, and the roof collapsed due to the blaze.

Although the building was vacant, gas and electric were still connected.

While no one was hurt in the fire, the house to the west of the building was damaged by falling bricks. The family living there was displaced and are being helped by the Red Cross, according to Chief Bernard Vahlkamp.

You will still want to avoid the area, as fire officials say the intersection of 7th and State will be closed until further notice.

This is not the first fire at the property.

Vahlkamp told our newsgathering partners at the Herald-Whig that an October 2008 fire, at the same building, killed three people and left a firefighter injured.

“This isn’t a building I have very fond memories of,” Vahlkamp said. “Obviously, this is a whole different situation, but that’s one of the fires that’ll be with me forever.”

A Quincy man was later found guilty in setting the fire and is serving life in prison.

Vahlkamp said vacant buildings can be fire risks if they are not maintained, which is why the city of Quincy has a fix or flatten program.

“They are working to maintain to take care of these vacant buildings. It’s just a long process, you got to work with building owners, and of course, there’s the legal aspect of it all,” Vahlkamp said.

Meanwhile, we spoke with the owner of the property after the fire finally died down early Thursday morning turning what was once a building with future potential into a demolition project.

Calftown developer Andy Caley said he had planned on renovating the building into apartments and commercial space.

He said even though this does affect his future plans, he plans to keep focusing on other projects to help the community thrive.

“The next steps now are to get the building taken down because its now a hazard to the community. So we are going to get the building taken down, and once that’s done, we are going to continue our renovations with the buildings in this area and keep moving forward,” Caley said.

Before the fire, Caley said he had removed more than 20 dumpsters full of trash and rubble in preparations for the renovations.

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