RACINE -- A three-story apartment building in Racine sustained heavy damage following a fire Saturday night, Jan. 20. Firefighters were dispatched to the area of 11th and Grand shortly before 8:30 p.m. Three tenants were forced out by the blaze, and neighbors said they, too were lucky to be alive. Police said the fire is being classified as suspicious as the investigation moves forward.
Upon arrival, crews found heavy fire on the east side of the building. The building was occupied at the time of the fire.
"I'm like, 'why do I see bright lights? Why is it so hot?' I opened the curtain and I just see the whole entire building engulfed in flames," said Jimmy Kothlow, neighbor.
It took firefighters approximately three hours to extinguish the blaze.
Residents said they felt fortunate to make it out safely.
"First, I'm like, 'Mom, we need to get out now!' And she's like 'why?' She looks and like - 'oh my God,'" said Kothlow.
Working smoke alarms alerted occupants to the fire — and everyone was able to escape the building without injury.
"Looking at this building, it's scary! I'm glad that didn't nobody get hurt," said Clidies King, neighbor.
Hours after the fire was put out, debris and the smell of smoke still lingered in the neighborhood. Fire officials said the estimated cost of damage is $440,000.
The strength of the fire was evident not just in the destruction of the property, but also, the damage left behind on neighbor's homes, including paint, a cracked window and the plastic mesh of a trampoline -- all melted by the flames.
"The house can be replaced and fixed. We can't," said Kothlow.
The cause remains under investigation.
If anyone has any information about this fire, you are urged to contact the Racine Fire Prevention Bureau at 262-635-7915,