Early Saturday morning fire at Wood River, Illinois apartment complex displaces residents

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WOOD RIVER, IL – Elderly and disabled residents rush to save each other after an apartment fire at the Golden Oak Apartments in Wood River, Ill.

At 2:30 a.m. Saturday, the building on W. Acton Avenue and N. Haller Street caught fire. Dennis Vetter’s smoke alarm and the dog woke him. He ran from his third-floor apartment to the second floor, “That’s when I saw the lady banging on the door in the middle of the building,” said Dennis Vetter, resident.

Marilyn Chronister was focused on one thing: getting her neighbor out, “I stayed banging on her door, calling out her name, until the fire department came and they used their thing to knock the door,” said Marilyn Chronister, resident.

A lot of residents at Golden Oak have problems walking. So, the Wood River Fire Department called in any other fire and police department that could help evacuate the building. Chronister had that same laser focus, “Of course, when you’re going through it, you don’t think about it. I have trouble walking. I have trouble breathing. But, I didn’t think about it. I wanted that woman out of that apartment.”

Everyone made it out, safely.

The tenant association at the Stevens Apartments next door made breakfast and offered time to think. That is when Chronister finally realized what just happened, “I broke down and cried a while ago. It hit me. I can go through it until it’s done.”

Red Cross volunteers came to help and found even more stories of survivors saving each other.

“The American public never ceases to amaze me how wonderful they are,” said Disaster Action Team Member Dan Hyatt. “And how they always stand up and do the right thing when it needs to be done.”

The fire department allowed several residents to go home while making others wait until more repairs were done.

The Illinois State Fire Marshal is looking for the cause.

The Red Cross, St. Louis Chapter is looking for volunteers to help with disasters like these.

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