Missing hydrant hurts Cahokia apartment fire fight
Firefighters believe a grease fire in the kitchen of an apartment sparked the blaze that destroyed the entire building and displaced eight residents Tuesday afternoon.
The fire was reported at about 1 p.m. According to Cahokia Fire Chief Steven Robbins, the first arriving firefighters reported seeing heavy flames and smoke pouring from the roof and middle units of the two-story building in the 300 block of Cooper Drive.
Robbins said firefighters were ordered not to attack the fire from the inside. The building’s roof and second floor caved in not long after firefighters arrived.
Cahokia firefighters operating arial turrets doused the building from above while tanker trucks from several nearby departments shuttled water to portable reservoirs at the scene. Robbins said there had previously been a fire hydrant on the same block as the apartment complex, but it had been removed.
“The nearest hydrant is about 1,000 feet down the road,” Robbins said. “We had to rely on tanker trucks.”
Tuesday’s steady breeze sent thick gray smoke out over Camp Jackson Road, west of the scene of the fire and away from other buildings, but it could have been a factor in the firefight, Robbins said.
“Luckily it was the outer apartment (building) versus the inner one,” he said. “We would have had a tough time not burning two of them down.”
Robbins said the only injury reported was to the occupant of the apartment where the grease fire started. That person was treated for the burn at the scene by paramedics and released.
Four of the eight units of the building were vacant. The American Red Cross was summoned to assist the eight people who lived in the building.
In addition to Cahokia firefighters, crews from Prairie Du Pont, Columbia, State Park, Signal Hill, Camp Jackson, Alorton, Church Road and Millstadt assisted at the scene by providing additional manpower and bringing water to the scene.