Metro-East News

Victim of high-rise fire at East St. Louis housing complex identified

A man died and two residents sustained minor injuries in a fire early Wednesday morning at the Orr Weathers housing complex.

The victim was identified as Arthur Jefferson, 60, of Apartment 403 in Building E-2. He was pronounced dead at 3:42 a.m. in the emergency room at Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville.

A cause of death has not been determined. An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday.

In all, 91 residents were evacuated for a little more than two hours because of the fire that began in a hallway about 2 a.m., Fire Chief Jason Blackmon said.

No firefighters were injured, but one had to have a oxygen provided to him, Blackmon said.

The fire started in the fourth-floor hallway of building E-2, Blackmon said. The public housing complex is located at North 14th Street and Missouri Avenue.

Cortez Slack, the chief of public safety for the East St. Louis Housing Authority, confirmed the elderly man’s death, but said at this time the cause of the death is unknown. His identity was not released.

“A couch and table were on fire in the hallway,” Blackmon said.

Jefferson lived on the fourth floor, but his apartment was on the opposite end of the hallway from where the fire was located, Slack said. The occupants are mainly seniors, but the building is populated with a mixed demographic of ages, he said.

The call reporting the fire at the housing complex came into the fire department at 2:12 a.m. Ten firefighters, including the chief, responded. A fire company from St. Louis provided mutual aid.

From about 2-4:30 a.m. residents stood outside. Blackmon said residents from the fifth through seventh floors were the first to return to their apartments. They were followed by the first through the third. Slack said.

“We were the first ones to respond. There was a lot of smoke. My officers started evacuating the first floor. By the time we started evacuating the second floor, the East St. Louis Fire Department, the East St. Louis Police Department and other surrounding agencies arrived. The fire department took over from there,” Slack said.

Slack said there is a lot of soot damage on the fourth floor from the smoke and some water damage.

“There is a tremendous amount of damage in the hallway. Lights there got so hot that they melted. The exit signs and cameras up there melted as well. The Housing Authority is working hand in hand with the Red Cross for placement for those who cannot return to their apartments on the fourth floor.

“Everybody is back in their apartments except those on the fourth floor. There are 13 apartments on the fourth floor and 91 total apartments in the building,” Slack said.

Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503