CAHOKIA HEIGHTS, Ill. – An apartment fire at a senior living complex claimed the life of an 82-year-old woman Wednesday night. Firefighters rescued other tenants in the building, but many of those residents are still displaced as investigators search for a cause of the fire.
Firefighters were called to Touchette Elderly Apartments on Bond Avenue in Cahokia Heights around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Camp Jackson Fire Chief Chris Davis said that when his crews got to the scene just a couple of minutes later they were met with heavy smoke coming from the second floor of the building.
The fire quickly grew to five alarms, with more than 40 firefighters from 12 departments responding to evacuate tenants and extinguish the blaze. More than 50 residents were rescued.
“We went door-to-door, banging on the doors, banging for the residents to get out,” Camp Jackson Assistant Fire Chief Sharon Davis said.
The fire began in Judy St. John’s apartment. She went into cardiac arrest. Rescuers performed CPR and took the 82-year-old to the hospital next door, but St. John did not survive.
“It was a traumatic loss. Judy was a beautiful person; loving and everything,” resident Julia Vulger said. “It’s just a tragedy.”
Five other residents were treated at the scene.
The Red Cross is operating a shelter at the Cahokia Heights Fitness Community Center. There are currently 20 people staying at the center. The other residents who were forced from their apartments are staying with family or friends.
Fire crews were able to contain the fire to just the one apartment, but there is smoke and water damage in much of the building. At this point, there is no timeline for when residents might be able to return. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.