Fire Guts Cahokia Apartment Complex

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CAHOKIA, IL (KTVI) - The Illinois State Fire Marshal has been called in to investigate an intense early morning blaze that gutted a Cahokia apartment complex.

Residents and the landlord have concerns that the fire may have been intentionally set.

The blaze started a little after 6:00am at the building at Mildred and Nash and quickly went to three alarms.

Drew Johnson lives in one of the apartments and basically lost everything. He got out after someone pounded on his door, “I was in there brushing my teeth and they said get out because the house was on fire and it was the neighbor boy next door. And there was other people out in the parking lot that I don’t even know - they said the place was in flames. I walked outside and looked and there was flames coming out of the windows upstairs.”

“A tenant came banging on the door. He just was leaving and saw fire and smoke. And thank goodness he woke everybody,” added Dan Eckhard, the landlord and owner of the building. He lived in the unit next to Johnson’s.

50 to 60 firefighters from eight departments responded to the fire.

There were five apartments in the building; one upstairs and four downstairs. Part of the building used to be a church years ago.

Investigators say the blaze started in the upstairs unit.

The Cahokia Assistant Fire Chief, Stephen Robbins, was the first to arrive at the scene, “The whole upstairs unit was totally involved--fire probably 20 to 30 feet in the air.”

There is concern that a domestic dispute may have played a role in the fire. Tenants and the landlord say a husband and wife who lived upstairs with their kids got into an argument last Friday.

We’re told the wife wound up getting arrested on an unrelated issued and the kids were taken by a relative.

Residents say the man was moving out all weekend and shortly after he left Monday morning, firefighters tell us the fire started in the family’s unit.

Four of the apartments in the complex were occupied. Six people were inside the building when the fire started. Fortunately, everyone got out safely and nobody was hurt.

An official cause has not been determined yet.