News Flash: Fire on Evanston’s Oak Avenue

Eighty firefighters helped douse flames that erupted late Tuesday night 

Sixteen fire engines from a half a dozen neighboring communities rushed to help Evanston’s fire department quell a three-alarm blaze at 1640 Oak Avenue Tuesday night, according to Evanston officials.

The fire caused more than $800,000 of damage to the historic Victorian-style house worth $1.4 million and continued to reignite itself in small pockets through Wednesday afternoon, according to fire officials.

Firefighters waiting outside prepare to extinguish remaining pockets of fire

The wood-framed home was empty at the time of the fire, and no one was injured.

So far firefighters see no signs of arson, according to Division Chief Tom Janetske.  The department will turn over the investigation to the property owner’s insurance company this week.

An Evanston resident had been gutting the interior to turn the building into a museum featuring his lifelong collection of antique clocks and watches, according to Klaiber.

The fire started in the rear of the building.  And 80 firefighters surrounded it, working for two hours to extinguish the flames, according to Deputy Chief Tom Janetske.

Shortly after a neighbor across the street called the fire department around 11 p.m., thirty guests at the neighboring Margarita European Inn and Pensiero Ristorante awoke to smoke and banging on their doors.

“It wasn’t a normal knock,” said guest Bob Haag, a retired musician in town to enjoy Chicago’s opera scene. “It was an urgent pounding.”

Haag, who was on the third floor of the five-story hotel, said he could smell the smoke but expected a small fire next door.

“I left everything behind and when I got outside, I was amazed,” said Haag. “The fire trucks had two huge ladders and all I could think was, ‘I wouldn’t want to be a fireman right now and have to climb up those!’”

The Furlong family of four from Iowa City, also staying on the Inn’s third floor, awoke unexpectedly from a knock, then saw the flames outside their window.

“We could see the fire—the glass shattered from the heat in the room,” said Meg Furlong. “My 11-year old son and husband rushed out of the room without shoes or pants.”

Klaiber said the roof may collapse and a demolition crew is scheduled to flatten the building Wednesday afternoon, according to Klaiber

“The stone façade might be salvagable,” said Klaiber, “but we’re going to lose the rest.”

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Kate Springer

Freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong. Contributor at CNN, Forbes Travel Guide, BBC Travel, Fodor's Travel Guide, superfuture, Tatler, and more.

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