Grand Bear Resort in North Utica evacuated due to 5-alarm fire

NORTH UTICA, Ill. (WLS) -- Guests at Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort were forced out of the lodge and into the bitter cold early Tuesday morning because of a five-alarm fire in North Utica, Ill.

Extremely cold temperatures and wind chills made firefighting efforts difficult and dangerous. It took hours to get the blaze under control.

Guests woke up to the sound of the smoke alarms ringing around 5 a.m. They were evacuated to the parking lot and advised to keep warm inside their cars until they could be relocated to other rooms.

Smoke and flames billowed out of the back of the main building, which houses the water park. That area sustained major damage. One of the guests shot video of the fire and described what they learned.

"It turns out, one of the guys said the fire started in the water park. There's a heater that keeps the pool area warm, in between the walls. Something started to spark up and it caught fire," the guest said.

About 60 firefighters from different departments responded to the fire to help rotate personnel in the cold. They also experienced water issues. Firefighters pumped water from two tankers in front of the building to the rear to help put out the flames.

"It's really cold. The fire trucks and where we've been getting the water from - the fire hydrants and stuff - have been freezing up. So we've been having to go to multiple different sites, rotating the guys out with the school buses and the warming trailers inside," Utica Fire Chief Ben Brown said.

The fire was under control by around 9 a.m.

"It's contained to the back part of the waterpark. In the walls, in the pump room area, the roof is gone in the back corner there. Imagine a large shed and small garage with significant damage," Brown said.

No one was injured.

Guests will be allowed inside to gather their belongings. But as of 11 a.m., fire officials said guests they will not be allowed to stay at the resort.

The fire marshal is investigating how the fire started.
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