PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Cleanup is underway at Peoria’s Glen Oak Towers, where a fire broke out and left about 35 residents displaced Monday.
According to Peoria Fire Chief James Bachman, the fire started in unit 405 and was accidental in nature. Residents woke up to a fire alarm at approximately 6:30 a.m. Monday morning. As they arrived, firefighters saw heavy smoke on the fourth floor of the building.
Several ceilings in the lobby of the apartment were still broken Tuesday afternoon. Some were still wet with light fixtures dangling from its base due to water damage.
Tammy Shock, a Glen Oak Towers property manager, confirmed employees are using fans to help tackle some of the water damage and alleviate a leftover stench from both smoke and fire.
Some residents said they were left on edge from the experience of being evacuated in bulks.
“It was very scary,” Kathleen Hilliard said.
Others said the process put them on alert.
“It wasn’t traumatic, but it was bad,” Marie Martin said.
Hilliard described having to hold her nose while running down the stairs through the clouds of smoke that she said got progressively worse as she made it down to the ground level.
“You couldn’t see anything,” Hilliard said. “It was black, it was soot, it was smoke, but we had to get out of there.”
She said with the help of first responders, they all made it out of the building while the fire department doused the fire. Seven people were taken to the hospital, while the rest were taken to the Methodist Atrium building and later to the Peoria Civic Center.
They were also assisted by the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
“We were roughly out for 11 hours,” Martin said.
“Between the Red Cross and the Salvation Army they just took a yeoman’s job taking care of all of us,” Hilliard said.
Shock said those on the 5th to 15th floor were able to come back the same night, while the first four floors remain vacant.
Bachman said floors one through three sustained either smoke or water damage, while floors four and five sustained smoke damage alone.
Some residents also complained about not having any hot water when they moved back into their units Monday night. Shock said Ameren Illinois employees came to the building Tuesday morning to turn the hot water back on and the issue should be resolved.
Shock said they are still trying to restore power to certain units, and they are also tearing out carpet and walls to repair some mold, smoke, and water damage that is preventing displaced residents from moving back into their units.
She said those displaced are now staying in hotels and with loved ones while management tries to get them all moved back in safely.
Some residents also said they were upset and claimed some people in wheelchairs had to stay in their units because they couldn’t use the elevators or the stairs. This is a claim WMBD will look into further.
Other residents said they were happy to be back into their apartments while wishing those in the hospital a speedy recovery. Shock said they are going to continue working to ensure everyone can safely move back in.