Ill. fire chief assists residents as they jump from second-story apartment fire

"I really didn't catch them, just tried to break their fall, but I went for it," said Warrensburg Fire Protection Chief Keith Hackl


Tony Reid
Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.

WARRENSBURG, Ill. — The town fire chief helped catch several people who jumped from the second floor of a Warrensburg apartment building Monday as it was engulfed in flames.

"Well, I really didn't catch them, just tried to break their fall, but I went for it," said Warrensburg Fire Protection Chief Keith Hackl. "And they were all OK."

[Watch videos from the incident here.]

One of those saved was 26-year-old Rachel Anderson, who pushed her shepherd-mix dog Quinton out first from her apartment in the 300 block of Southland Drive. Then Anderson made the jump into the arms of the waiting fire chief, along with her fiancé.

Sadly, Anderson said there wasn't time to rescue her cats "a mother cat and four baby cats" who were among several pets to perish in the fire. None of the more than 20 residents in the 12 unit brick building were hurt and no firefighters were injured.

"I was just sitting on my bed watching TV like normal and the next thing I knew I heard someone yelling in the hallway and then I realized what she was saying: 'Fire, fire, fire,'" said Anderson.

"We also soon realized we couldn't go out the door because the hallway was just choked in black smoke; so we had to bust our window screen out and jump out that way.

"It was scary and I didn't see all the flames until I got outside."

Hackl said the fire call had come in about 10:15 a.m. and he arrived on scene about a minute later. "We had fire coming out of the roof and out of the east end of the building," he said.

"The wind was gusting, maybe 25 mph out of the west, and it was pushing that fire."

The whole building was rapidly overtaken with fierce flames and was a total loss. Hackl said he went to a second alarm to summon mutual aid and firefighters continued knocking down hotspots in the smoking ruin hours later. Heavy equipment was then brought in to tear down the tottering brick walls and clear burned debris away.

Hackl said the cause is under investigation and experts from the State Fire Marshal's office were on scene.

"It's one of the worst fires we've had here in a while," he added. "The fire started in the west end of the building and, with that wind coming out of the west, it was through the building in no time."

The American Red Cross arrived to help the displaced residents, providing food and blankets and issuing vouchers to help them with temporary accommodation.

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(c)2022 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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