A Pekin man received “significant” injuries in an early morning blaze Saturday that was caused by the careless disposal of smoking material, according to the Pekin Fire Department.
The man’s name has not been released by the fire department. Pekin Fire Chief Kurt Nelson said Sunday that the man was transported to OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. Nelson did not know his current condition.
The fire occurred at an old hotel located at 342 Ann Eliza St. The hotel was converted many years ago to a small apartment complex. Sixteen people were sleeping inside the complex when the fire broke out. When the fire department arrived at the blaze, which was called into the fire department at 4:54 a.m., fire was coming from Apt. 5.
Doris and Jeff Bessler were sleeping in the apartment next door to where the fire broke out. Doris said she was awakened by the heat. She then woke her husband.
“Thank God for my wife,” said Jeff Bessler. “She woke up complaining that it was hot and then said, ‘Jeff, there’s smoke. There’s a fire.’ I opened up the door and flames shot in. We got a back flash from the flames.”
“It got so hot that it exploded the air-conditioner Bill had in his window — blew it right out of the window,” said Doris.
First floor residents had evacuated the facility when firefighters arrived, but second floor residents had not. Firefighters had trouble waking those residents and had to kick in some of the doors to get people out. A second injury was caused when a resident hit his head on the door of his apartment when evacuating. His injury was not serious and he was treated at the scene, said Nelson.
The American Red Cross arranged housing for people occupying several heavily damaged apartments. Nelson said some of the units are usable and resident have been allowed to return to their homes. Eight of the 14 apartments sustained significant smoke damage and two sustained fire damage. Early estimates place damage at $25,000.
Nelson said the department has yet to determine if there was a fire alarm in the heavily damaged apartment where the fire started.
“The problem is that people take down the fire alarms or take the batteries out,” he said. “Even the hard wired ones — people dismantle them and sell them.”
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin