Elgin Tower Building manager says fire appears to be arson

It appears someone intentionally set fire in an elevator of the Elgin Tower Building Sunday night, the building manager said Monday.

Neal Pitcher, who is out of town, said that's what he was told by firefighter on the scene who spoke with Pitcher on the phone Sunday night. The arsonist broke the front door's glass to gain access to the building, Pitcher said.

“The fireman I was talking to said (arson) is what he thought it looked like,” he said.

Elgin Fire Department Battalion Chief Terry Bruce said the fire is under investigation.

“I can confirm that upon arrival the glass door was broken prior to our arrival,” he said.

The fire was inside the elevator and caused smoke damage to the lobby, Bruce said. It appeared miscellaneous items were on fire, including a trash can, he said.

Fire officials were called at 7:48 p.m. to the building at 100 E. Chicago St. The fire was noticed by a passer-by.

The alarm was immediately upgraded to a level 1 box alarm, which brought in fire officials from seven surrounding communities, fire officials said in a news release.

The fire was under control within minutes. Firefighters checked the remainder of the building for occupants and any spread of the fire, finding none, Bruce said.

A high-pressure ventilation truck from Wheeling was used to get rid of smoke that had spread throughout the building.

The front door was boarded up Monday. Elgin's code enforcement department will inspect the building and determine whether it's safe for tenants to re-enter, Pitcher said.

The Illinois State Fire Marshal also was at the building Monday, Bruce said.

The 15-story building, which once housed 32 tenants, now only has three tenants left — Pitcher, an attorney and a building materials sales office, Pitcher said.

“I don't know (who could have set the fire),” he said. “Fortunately, they miscalculated. They didn't realize the building won't burn for anything. It's all concrete, there is no combustible building materials like a new building would have.”

The city of Elgin last year filed a lawsuit in Kane County regarding safety violations at the Tower Building, which has long-standing issues regarding its sprinkler system and elevator.

City officials last month set a deadline of June 30 for the building owners to resolve safety issues. If the deadline is not met, the city will condemn it, Mayor David Kaptain said.

Pitcher said it makes no sense to perform any work by June 30 because of a pending contract to sell the building to Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co.

“They're asking for hundreds of thousand of dollars of work, and all (work) would have to be ripped out as soon as the buyer of the building begins their work,” he said.

Gorman wants to renegotiate the original $1.15 million sale price down to $625,000, Pitcher said.

“We're working with them,” he said.

According to the Elgin Fire Department, the building's safety issues were not an obstacle in fighting the fire.

Official: Elgin Tower fire started in elevator

  Arson is suspected in a fire Sunday night at the Elgin Tower Building, the building manager said. The city of Elgin's code enforcement department was scheduled to inspect the building Monday. Rick West/
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