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Arson attempt in DeKalb fails to start fire

Building had been scene of reported arson fire Thursday

DeKALB – Fire crews responded Tuesday to reports of a substance being lit on fire in the third-floor hallway at an apartment building at 930 Greenbrier Road, a building that was the site of a suspected arson Thursday.

Fire crews responded about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday to reports of a string material on fire on the third floor of the building, with smoke in the hallway.

The initial reports suggested the material was no longer on fire. It was another example of an attempt to start a fire by a person who has been repeatedly striking area apartment buildings, and Northern Illinois University police described it in a safety bulletin as an arson attempt.

“We received a non-911 call for an odor in the building,” McMaster said. “It was the smell of smoke but very light, to the point where occupants went out [into the hallway] and did some investigation and found some material. I’m not even sure what the material was.”

No evacuation was necessary, although DeKalb Fire Chief Jeff McMaster said fire investigators were on the scene and still are working to determine the cause of the fire.

He said the building didn’t sustain any damage, and police have not made an arrest. McMaster said police have found no eyewitnesses in the incident, but said DeKalb police are increasing patrols in the area.

Residents in the building and surrounding areas have been on edge because two suspected arsons displaced almost 200 residents in two days less than a week ago.

Authorities believe the fires July 9 and 11 were set intentionally in a Hunter Properties-owned building. The incidents add to a string of suspected arsons that date to 2018, when four fires were set in one week at 808 Ridge Drive, one while first responders were in the building.

DeKalb Police Chief John Petragallo has said his department is soliciting outside agencies and the public’s help in an attempt to catch whoever is responsible, with no suspect arrested.

The building at 808 Ridge Drive was condemned Wednesday after several mattresses were lit on fire in a common area on the third floor during the night, causing residents to leap from the windows to escape the blaze, and displaced 140 people. A second suspected arson Thursday at 930 Greenbrier started when a dryer in the basement was set ablaze.

McMaster said Monday some residents were allowed back in 930 Greenbrier as of Friday night, although six units remain condemned.

McMaster said the damage from Thursday’s fire was contained to the ground level, therefore the remaining floors were opened up after Hunter Properties management addressed multiple code violations in the building.

“We gave them a very long list of
building and fire code violations that
needed to be corrected,” McMaster said. “Within 36 hours [after Thursday’s fire], they were all corrected and I personally inspected the areas to make sure they were safe.”

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