Fire torched belongings

By Nick Swedberg and Sara Adams

Wednesday’s storage area fire, which caused $125,000 in damage and burned through 18 units, also destroyed almost everything former Huskie place kicker Steve Azar owns.

Azar received a phone call when he was halfway through Alabama while he was driving his way home from Florida.

“The whole thing got torched,” Azar recalled from the phone conversation.

He had been living in Florida and was getting ready to move; the Grand Rapids Rampage, an arena league football team in Michigan, is looking for new kickers.

“If I’m what they’re looking for – and I think I am – I’m hoping to play football again,” Azar said.

Everything Azar owned, excluding his clothes and including his most prized possessions, was reduced to junk in a fire that took four fire departments and 46 firefighters to extinguish.

Among the ruined possessions are a special teams Player of the Year award – a 14- by 12-inch engraved wood plaque – and a Freshman All-American award – a newspaper clipping mounted on a piece of steel.

Both were reduced to ash and deformed metal. Also decimated were his newspaper clippings of the 2003-2004 Huskie season, letters sent to him during his freshman year from the San Diego Chargers and various types of Huskie uniforms.

Azar said he could easily recognize the jerseys. The fabric had melted and stuck together.

Investigators are still examining the blaze, which took 40 minutes to contain.

“We’re still waiting on the outcome of the investigation,” said Dave Baker, manager of DeKalb County Self Storage.

Witnesses to the fire said the blaze could have been contained had a fire extinguisher from a neighboring UPS station been used. Employees would not allow the fire extinguisher to leave the property.

“Every manufacturing facility must have fire extinguishers, but there is no requirement to let other companies use it,” said John Newquist, team leader for the North Aurora Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

There also is no regulation against it, Newquist said.

In the case of the DeKalb County Self Storage facility, OSHA would not have expected them to have a fire extinguisher and would expect the DeKalb Fire Department to take care of the situation, Newquist said.

“If it’s true about the UPS place, I hope they lose a lot of business,” Azar said, who must now rebuild his life before his trip to Michigan.

UPS acknowledged only that 911 was called from the building.