Depot Fire

By: Erica Hurtt
By: Erica Hurtt

Fire investigators continue to look for the cause of a fire that destroyed a vacant train depot on South Main Street Monday night. At this point crews believe all of the hot spots have been put out and have completed their initial investigation. At this time they're still not sure exactly what caused the blaze, but are calling it accidental.

After searching through the debris from the train depot fire investigators found few clues about what caused the fast moving blaze, but reports from witnesses indicate the fire was caused by homeless people staying the building.

"One person says he thought they may have had a barrel inside the building they were using to cook food, but we don't have anything concrete yet," says Chief Mark Marinaro.

Investigators believe four or five different groups of homeless people had been staying in the vacant one story building. As temperatures fall, these types of accidental fires become a greater concern for firefighters.

"We're not sure about what the structure of the building is. Are there holes in the floor and other hazards especially under smoke and fire conditions," adds Marinaro.

Several shelters operate in Rockford, but research shows dozens of people still choose to live on the streets. Experts say homeless might choose vacant buildings over shelters for many reasons. They might suffer from mental illnesses or fear the system.

"Most are loners and many are survivors so they have the attitude of I can do it myself," says Randa Noble.

Tuesday at the scene of the blaze, there was no sign of any of the people who had been living inside this building. Investigators are still searching for anyone with information.


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