Fire Burns 8 Buildings in Rock Island

October 1, 2014

Fire ripped through the heart of downtown Rock Island, Ill., early Saturday, destroying or damaging eight buildings.

The fire in the western Illinois city began just after 4 a.m. Saturday in a vacant building that was scheduled to be demolished Monday, officials said. The city’s chief building official says electricity and gas had been shut off just before the fire.

Firefighters from four departments worked about 2 1/2 hours to extinguish the fire on 18th Street. No injuries were reported. A damage estimate was not immediately available.

A tattoo parlor was gutted and a pizzeria sustained heavy smoke and water damage. Several apartments are on the upper floors of the buildings.

One resident, Chris Sackfield, said he was awakened by his roommate knocking on his door.

“My apartment looks right outside the alley and all you saw was just orange blaze,” Sackfield said. “… The brick blew out, caused our kitchen to cave in, we got a big hole in our ceiling now and part of the wall gave in.”

The cause of the blaze, which started in a building that formerly housed a cafe, is unknown as investigators worked through the weekend. Fire Marshal Greg Marty says investigators will pay close attention to the time between when local bars closed and when the fire broke out.

Two buildings – the one where the fire started and another, housing a tattoo parlor – were torn down. Fire Marshal Greg Marty says a third also might have to be razed.

“The building was totally engulfed when our guys arrived,” Marty said. “The entire building was vacant and ready to be demolished by the city.”

Dan Bonowski, owner of the Jaded Gypsy Tattoo shop, who also had an apartment above it, declined comment. Brian Hollenback, president of Renaissance Rock Island, said he is working on finding storage for Bonowski’s salvaged items and an empty storefront where he can reopen.

Jon Keim, owner of Huckleberry’s Great Pizza, just three doors down from the fire, said his business suffered major smoke and water damage, but he believed he would be able to reopen. The building between his parlor’s front door and the tattoo shop, which housed a secondary Huckleberry’s dining area and the apartment he had above it, might be lost, he said.

“It’s going to hurt bad,” said Rick Titus, who lives just down the street and saw the blaze from his window. “We didn’t need this, Rock Island didn’t. It’s something that’s going to hurt a whole lot of us.”

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