RANTOUL — Fire caused $1 million in damage to a downtown Rantoul building Wednesday evening. Five fire departments responded to the blaze.

Rantoul Fire Chief Ken Waters said the cause of the fire at 109 S. Tanner St. is undetermined, but a state fire marshal’s office investigator and a Rantoul Fire investigator determined the blaze started around the flue area of a woodburning stove.

The fire was reported at 8:13 p.m.

Fire up top South Tanner Street

Firefighters used two ladder trucks to fight Wednesday night's fire on South Tanner Street, Rantoul.

The building is owned by Marion Valentine. The south end of the property was used in part for storage, including a 1976 Corvette. Waters said the area also included woodworking equipment and a forklift.

The north end of the building houses TT Fasteners and Tool Sales.

Most of the structural damage was confined to the south end.

Firefighters fought the blaze completely from the exterior because of the architecture of the building.

Heavy smoke South Tanner Street

Heavy smoke comes from the building at 109 S. Tanner St., Rantoul, that was heavily damaged by fire Wednesday evening.

“When we first got there we knew this was going to be a surround and drown,” Waters said in how the fire had to be fought. “It’s a bow-string roof. When those let loose, there have been several instances where firefighters have gotten killed.”

Two ladder trucks, including one from Paxton, were used on the fire with “probably eight or nine hand lines,” Waters said. “It did the job. It was confined to the second floor and didn’t get into the (TT) building.

“There are still five more buildings in town that have bow-string roofs. We’re very conscious of that. We don’t want to get anybody hurt.”

The roof did fall in, but because of the sturdiness of the structure, the 13-inch floor did not allow it to collapse to the ground level.

Waters said the building at one time housed Frazier Garage.

Tim Tadlock, owner of TT Fasteners, said his building sustained a great deal of water damage.  

Waters estimated a million gallons of water was pumped on the fire.

“We were pumping 4,000 to 5,000 gallons a minute,” he said. “We stressed the mains out there. They were only 6-inch mains. The water department kicked on some additional pumps, which gave us some additional pressure.’

Gifford firefighters laid down a water curtain to protect a building 12 feet to the north that houses Downtown Thrift Store and More. The building was untouched other than water in the basement and smoke smell Thursday morning.

In addition to Paxton, assisting the Rantoul department were firefighters from Gifford and Thomasboro plus Ludlow on standby at the Rantoul station.

Waters said 26 Rantoul firefighters turned out, while Thomasboro and Gifford sent an engine and “five or six people,” and Ludlow another six firefighters.

Waters said there was heavy smoke and flames showing through two windows of the second floor when firefighters arrived.

They remained on the scene until 2:30 a.m. Thursday. Firefighters were called to a rekindle at 6:12 a.m. and were on the scene another 90 minutes.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com