Fire destroys businesses in Lockport

November 10, 2010 (LOCKPORT, Ill.)

Firefighters continued to investigate the scene late Wednesday morning, combing through the charred building to determine how the fire started.

No one was seriously hurt, but because the businesses burned down, some families now have to start over.

The fire tore through the string of businesses in the historic part of downtown Lockport just before 2 a.m. Wednesday. The now-charred building is attached to a boarded-up hotel and bar that burned down in a deadly fire in 2008.

"Bad luck, and unfortunately, four businesses. In this economy, if you lose a business, that's bad for the town," said Lockport Fire Chief Dave Skoryi. "When you're dealing with older buildings, they have timber construction which isn't used anymore."

The losses from the latest fire scene include an insurance company, a denim store, a bowling alley in the basement and Stephenson Photography.

"We had all of our customer files, our negatives, every event that ever happened in Lockport in the past --how many-- years," said Mary Pierson of Stephenson Photography. "It was all in there. It's all gone."

Some of the other business owners say they are not sure if they will re-emerge.

"With the wiring and stuff like that, it would probably have to be from the ground up because I'm sure all the water went down into it. We were down in the basement. We were below the other three businesses," said Lockport Lanes' Mike Stropkovic.

Then, there's the Henderson family. Mr. and Mrs. Henderson just rebuilt and moved their denim store, Weber Denim, after losing everything in yet another fire last year. They reopened in the now-destroyed Lockport building and had been planning on handing their business over to their son.

"A big loss. A lot of personal items, besides just the merchandise. A lot of hard work went into putting it all together. I just feel like, 'Pinch me.' It's a dream. It hasn't really hit me yet," shop owner Anna Henderson said.

Firefighters say they saved a man and a woman from an apartment next door to the burned building. The couple was treated on the scene and refused to be taken to the hospital.

"They helped us out. We had trouble breathing. They put us into an ambulance and had us checked out," said Brittany Arteaga who was rescued from the blaze.

"When engine company four got here, they went to the apartment building above," said Skoryi. "Smoke was so thick they couldn't see anyone, but they heard a female yelling. They were able to locate her and her husband and guide them out to safety."

Investigators say it will take days to determine a cause for the fire, but witnesses say they heard and saw and explosion.

"All of a sudden the building blew up across the street from my house. Literally, I thought my windows was going to get blown out. It was crazy," said witness Chazarae Musaraca.

Firefighters from several different suburban departments to put out the fire. None of them was injured.

Most business owners tell ABC7 Chicago they have insurance. Some say they are not sure if they will reopen. Even if they do, it will take time to do so, and they say they are losing money every day their businesses are closed.

But for a town that has rebuilt from flames before, there is confidence even the setback can be overcome

"As soon as we get them back in place, we hope to increase investment in the community because we have other buildings that have suffered from fire," said Tom Alves, Tallgrass Restaurant.

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