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University Liquors damaged by fire

(photo courtesy of Normal Fire Dept.)

NORMAL – An early morning fire broke out at long-time Normal business, University Liquors, at 706 W. Beaufort St., spreading into the roof structure and causing major damage to the business.

Illinois State University Police Department reported the fire to Metcom Communications at 2:29 am, reporting smoke and flames visible from the building. Due to the close proximity to Normal Fire Department Headquarters, the first arriving engine was on the scene in about three minutes from the time of the call. They saw heavy smoke pouring from the roof of the building and flames visible through one area of the roof. Once the fire was confirmed, a second alarm was struck out, which calls in all off-duty Normal firefighters and requests a Rapid Intervention Team from Bloomington Fire Department. Firefighters began an aggressive interior fire attack to try to bring the fire under control before it would spread further into the structure. A tower ladder truck was extended over the building so firefighters could cut holes to ventilate the heat and smoke from the building to improve the conditions for the firefighters working inside.

Firefighters had the main volume of fire out in about a half hour, but they continued to extinguish hot spots in void spaces in the roof structure for several hours.

“This fire was an especially dangerous one for our firefighters. Due to the lack of windows on the building, there were only two doorways out. If, in the course of fighting the fire, they had to evacuate rapidly, or if there was some kind of collapse of the ceiling or roof structure, the firefighters could easily have become trapped with no way out,” said Fire Chief Mick Humer. “Thankfully that wasn’t the case on this fire, but it’s something in the front of our minds on something like this. Our interior firefighters were able to get in and get the job done very effectively and we are very proud of their efforts.”

Ameren and NICOR responded to the scene to shut off and secure their respective utilities. The McLean County Health Department also responded to give information regarding salvage efforts for any products in the building.

Firefighters continued working inside using hand lines and tools to cut ventilation holes and extinguish hot spots and to ventilate the smoke from the building until about 6:30 am. Investigators worked at the scene until about 10:00 am and turned the building back over to the insurance company and the building owners.

The business is insured and the insurance company is working with a restoration company to secure the business. The business was closed when the fire broke out, and will remain closed until such time as a determination can be made on its future.

At this time, there is no official damage estimate, however the building suffered extensive fire damage. The bulk of the retail space had heavy smoke and heat damage throughout. Based on the high temperatures and the chemicals given off during the fire, all of the products inside will likely have to be discarded.

There were no injuries reported.

The origin and cause of the fire remains under investigation by Normal Fire Department Investigators.

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