Man using wheelchair dies in apartment fire

News-DemocratDecember 26, 2013 

— A man in a wheelchair died in an apartment fire early Thursday morning.

Robert J. Blotevogel, 45, was unable to escape the fire, which started in his apartment, Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Steinmeyer said.

The call came in to the Worden Fire Department at 7:12 a.m. to an eight-unit apartment building at 344 Schneider St. A retired firefighter and a former firefighter who lived in the area called in the report and were helping people out of their apartments through windows due to heavy smoke in the hallways, Steinmeyer said.

"Without the help of those two people, it could have been a lot worse," Steinmeyer said.

Blotevogel was pronounced dead at the scene. An autopsy was performed Thursday, but the Madison County Coroner's Office did not release a cause of death. The coroner's office will wait on carbon monoxide analysis and routine toxicology reports before prescribing a cause of death, according to the statement.

All other residents were safely evacuated, some with a ladder, and none had to be treated for injuries, Steinmeyer said. The only other casualty was a firefighter who fell and injured his arm, he said.

The apartment building is not habitable; it will take some time to clean it up, Steinmeyer said. However, it is mostly smoke damage; he said the fire itself was largely contained to the apartment where it began.

Approximately seven to 10 people are temporarily displaced by the fire, but Steinmeyer said he did not know if the Red Cross was helping them.

"It wasn't long after we were on the scene that the people who lived there were gone," he said. "They might have had family in the area to go to."

The main fire was extinguished in about 20 minutes, Steinmeyer said. Worden's firefighters were assisted by the Hamel and Olive Township fire departments and Staunton Area Ambulance Service.

The Madison County Sheriff's Department and Illinois State Fire Marshal are investigating the cause of the fire. Funeral arrangements are pending at Williamson Funeral Home of Staunton.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 239-2507.

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