Officials say center is safe despite fires

By Jean Dobrzynski

The fire damage that ravaged through DeKalb Center on two separate days nearly two weeks ago was proof-positive that the fire protection system in the building works.

The fact that there were no walls collapsing and that only tenant belongings burned led investigators to prove the building is safe, said Rick Monas, assistant director of DeKalb Building and Community Services.

“It has been determined that both fires were not caused by any code violations,” Monas said.

A fire broke out on April 4 in Dekalb Center, 1100 W. Lincoln Hwy., after children were playing with matches. The next day, a second blaze started after a smoldering fire was found in the walls of the apartment.

Monas said a code violation was in question when firefighters discovered during the second fire that there was a lack of firestops in the plumbing system and no “firestopping” foam material lingering in the water pipes.

Firestopping material seals holes and cracks in the walls and prevents fire from spreading by eliminating drafts.

But Monas said there was no hazard because the cement block construction stood up to the fire. However, the damaged section of the building that is exposed now will be rebuilt with firestopping material.

“To reconstruct all of the walls would not be economically feasible for the owner,” he said. To be reasonable, “We have to take into consideration that the owner would have to tear down all of the walls and all of the tenants relocated.”

Assistant Fire Chief Reuben Nelson said the fire department did not do an additional investigation for code violations.

“We do not do investigations unless something is glaring right at us—like an arson attempt,” he said. “At the time of origin (at the DeKalb Center), we did not see anything unusual.”

Sixth Ward Alderman James Pennington said Joe Navillo, the complex owner and manager, is doing a “fine job” with repairs.

“Vacuums were sucking up all of the water and other water damage was repaired in the first day and a half,” Pennington said.

Pennington said although he has not seen the repair work first-hand, he has heard Navillo is doing a good job.