3rd-alarm fire in downtown Mt Morris: One treated for smoke inhalation, estimated $300,000 in damage

'Everybody is accounted for and got out of the building'


MT. MORRIS — One occupant was treated for smoke inhalation on scene and no firefighters were injured after a third-alarm structure fire at a downtown Mt. Morris building Tuesday afternoon, Mt. Morris Fire Chief Rob Hough said. 

First responders were called at approximately 1:32 p.m. Tuesday to the intersection of West Main Street and North Wesley Avenue in Mt. Morris for the report of a possible structure fire. 

"I arrived on scene and saw heavy fire venting out of the front window of an occupancy on the corner," Hough said at around 5 p.m. Tuesday. "Companies then arrived on scene. With the wind, the age of the building and its construction, the fire grew rapidly. We escalated it to a third alarm mutual aid box alarm to bring in resources from the area. The fire is under control at this time. Everybody is accounted for and got out of the building.”

The fire took place at the addresses of 1 and 3 N. Wesley Ave. The financial institution at 4 E.  Main St. was evacuated as well as a precaution. The fire was brought under control at 3:45 p.m. Fire spread into the 3 N. Wesley Ave. building due to no fire wall separating them. The fire was extinguished at 5 p.m. and most companies were released by 7 p.m. Firefighters remained on scene performing salvage and overhaul of the structures until approximately 9 p.m. 4 E. Main St. was a separate building and was undamaged in the incident. 

Hough said there were occupants in the first building when the fire started, but they were all evacuated safely. He said the age of the building, a two-story wood frame structure, could be over 125 years old, which complicated things for firefighters along with weather. 

"It's an aged structure," Hough said. "You have hidden voids. There were different types of construction back then. It's balloon-framed, which allows fire to spread quickly. It was a wind-driven fire. We had wind out of the southeast today gusting at 20-25 miles per hour. The cards were stacked against us. It was during the day when a lot less firefighters are available. It's just the perils of a small-town fire department."

Both 1 & 3 N. Wesley Ave. were made uninhabitable due to the fire. The Initial combined damage estimate to both buildings is $300,000. 

Responding departments included Mt. Morris Fire, Advanced EMS, Byron Fire, Dixon City Fire, Dixon Rural Fire, Forreston Fire, German Valley Fire, Lanark Fire, Ogle County Emergency Management, Oregon Fire, Pecatonica Fire, Polo Fire, Shannon Fire, and Stillman Fire. 

"A day like today takes a lot out of firefighters," Hough said. "That's part of the job. We have a great mutual aid system. We rapidly escalated the mutual aid box alarm system to bring resources in from all of our neighboring communities. It's a pretty flawless system. Our companies worked well together. It's what we do. We all help each other out."

Mt. Morris Police, Mt. Morris Fire, the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office and ATF are performing a joint investigation. The investigation is still ongoing. There was no cause determined as of the time of an April 17 press release.