DeKALB – Two people were displaced from their apartment at 808 Ridge Drive on Wednesday in a kitchen fire officials say was accidental at the Hunter Ridgebrook Apartments, a complex which was condemned and then reopened following a series of suspected arsons in 2019.
The fire caused about $25,000 worth of damage, and a building staff member, along with a DeKalb police officer who went in to help evacuate the building were treated for smoke inhalation on the scene.
No flames were visible around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, though DeKalb County traffic scanners reported flames coming from an apartment on the second floor when fire crews first arrived at 2:44 p.m., and heavy smoke coming from the building.
"When our guys got here they found heavy black smoke in the hallways," said DeKalb Fire Chief Jeff McMaster. "They made entry and continued to evacuate the building. They made entry into the apartment where they extinguished the fire in the kitchen."
McMaster said the fire was discovered by a property manager.
"What we had was the report of smoke coming from an apartment," McMaster said. "The fire was found by the property owner's staff, or property management staff, who noticed smoke coming out from underneath the door. They opened the door to see if there was anybody inside and at that time they started evacuating the building and called 911."
The DeKalb Fire Department's social media put out an alert around 3:15 p.m. asking residents to avoid the area due to a working structure fire. According to a news release sent by the DeKalb Fire Department, the flames were contained within 15 minutes and crews stayed on scene for one hour and 40 minutes to ventilate the building.
McMaster recalled the building's history with fire Wednesday.
"We've had moderate fire activity in here," McMaster said. "We had a major fire in this building one year ago, or about 15 months ago."
McMaster was referring to a July 2019 blaze investigators believe was set intentionally after several mattresses that had been left in a third-floor common area were set on fire. Smoke and flames ended up barring the stairwell and door from the third floor, so several residents were seen jumping from balconies, including a mother who had to throw her baby from the balcony, in an attempt to escape. The building, owned by Evanston-based Hunter Properties, was later condemned due to fire damage and code violations.
Since the fires, 808 Ridge Drive was reopened.
The fire Wednesday, which investigators believe was set accidentally due to cooking in the kitchen.