Our sister station WLBK reports that DeKalb officials suspect a fire at an apartment building started when mattresses stacked in a hallway were lit. "Chaotic" is how DeKalb’s interim police chief describes the scene at 808 Ridge Drive during the Tuesday night fire that left 140 tenants searching for housing after the building was condemned.

At a news conference Wednesday, Fire Chief Jeff McMaster said firefighters were called to the building shortly before 11 p.m. on Tuesday night.

McMaster says people who needed medical help were found lying on the ground. Six people were taken to Kishwaukee Hospital. McMaster says one person has life-threatening injuries. City Manager Bill Nicklas says arson is suspected.

To figure that out, Interim Police Chief John Petragallo says investigators are interviewing residents and reviewing video surveillance. He says they do have leads.

The building has a history of suspected arsons. Petragallo says there have been five fires at the building. While it’s not known yet, he says they’re investigating whether the fires are connected.

Meanwhile, DeKalb’s city manager has strong words for the owners of the apartment building that caught fire in a suspected arson.

Nicklas believes the tenants of the Hunter Properties-owned building at 808 Ridge Drive should’ve been able to escape Tuesday night’s fire more easily.

He says it’s expected that tenants can get out quickly and safely with the most warning possible.

Nicklas also criticized the conditions at Hunter-owned buildings in the city. He says Hunter has paid around $113,000 in fines after racking up more than 400 violations.

He indicated that won’t be the end of the city’s push to see conditions improve in the buildings.

New Hope Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Joe Mitchell says he’s been in the building.

Mitchell says the community and those in leadership positions need to do better to make sure everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Mayor Jerry Smith is calling on the city council to get behind Nicklas’ efforts.

Nicklas says Hunter Properties will be getting a list of requirements that must be met before people can live at 808 Ridge Drive again. He says the building will also be inspected before it reopens. Police say they're investigating leads in the suspected arson.


Our sister station WLBK reports that investigators suspect that an apartment building fire in the northwest part of DeKalb that forced 140 people from their homes was intentionally set.

DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas says arson is suspected in Tuesday night’s fire at 808 Ridge Drive. He says an image of a suspect was captured by camera. The building has a history of suspected arsons.

Nicklas says one person was seriously injured in Tuesday night’s fire.

DeKalb Police say several injuries were reported from people fleeing the building after the third-floor fire alarm went off shortly before 11 Tuesday night. Six people were taken to Kishwaukee Hospital.

Police say some people were unable to get out of the building. DeKalb firefighters used ladders to rescue them.

Hoses were brought into the building to put out the fire.

Police say the building was condemned because of the extent of the fire damage, leaving 140 tenants displaced.

The American Red Cross and DeKalb County Housing Authority set up a temporary emergency shelter. DeKalb County Animal Control and Tails Humane Society are helping with the temporary placement of pets.

The fire is being investigated by the DeKalb Police and Fire departments and the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Anyone with information on the fire is being asked to call DeKalb Police at 815-748-8400 or Crime Stoppers at 815-895-3272.

Information provided in this report has been obtained from area authorities, including but not limited to local police, fire and emergency dispatch officials. Information is sourced only from official sources of public information unless otherwise stated. Subjects listed who have been charged or cited for crimes have not been proven guilty in court and all acts are alleged.