Flames erupt in former church Wednesday evening

Local News

UPDATE: A man was treated for smoke inhalation after a Geneseo fire that may have been started by construction work.

Shortly before 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, multiple 911 calls reported a structure fire on the 200 block of West Pearl Street, Geneseo, a news release update says.

The building is a single-family residence that formerly was the First Baptist Church.

The initial 911 callers said people were inside and flames were coming out of the steeple.

Geneseo Police and Henry County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived on scene within two minutes. The first Geneseo firefighters arrived on scene within six minutes of the initial call.

A family of four, including a teenager and pre-teen, safely escaped the structure. A man was taken by a private vehicle to Hammond Henry Hospital for minor smoke inhalation. He was treated and released. No other injuries were reported.

Assistance was requested from the Cambridge and Atkinson fire departments. Because of the large number of people and vehicles coming into the area, Geneseo Police asked for assistance from the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Atkinson Police Department, and Illinois State Police, the release says.

The fire damaged a large part of the structure, which was undergoing construction and was unoccupied by residents at the time of the fire. The residential portion of the building had smoke and water damage.

The blaze remains under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office with the assistance of the Geneseo Fire and Police Departments. ‘It is believed this fire was accidentally started by ongoing construction work in the residence,” the release says.

Geneseo Police ask anyone with more information to contact Geneseo Police at 309-944-5141.

EARLIER: Flames erupted from the former First Baptist Church on the corner of Center and Pearl streets shortly after 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Geneseo.

Emergency responders told our Local 4 News crew the call came in at 7:40 p.m. for a fire in the building that was being remodeled.

As of 9 p.m., the fire continued to smolder while firefighters put water on the structure. Neighbors brought water and sports drinks to first responders who fought the fire in oppressive heat. La Roma’s, a local pizzeria, donated five large pizzas to the crews.

As of 9:30 p.m., crews used two aerial ladders to dismantle the timbers remaining in the steeple.

Photos by Mike Colón

Everyone inside escaped safely, firefighters said, and no injuries were reported. The cause of the fire, which left severe damage to the structure, remains unknown, and we do not know the extent of the damage.

Firefighters included crews from Geneseo, Atkinson, Woodhull and Cambridge, along with crews from Geneseo Police Department and Henry County Sheriff’s Office, assisted at the scene.

Photos by Mike Colón

Local 4 News and www.ourquadcities.com will provide updates when they become available.

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