Wheaton house fire displaces 3 families

  • Jill Markussen, right, gets a hug from neighbor Tina Bibergall in front of her Wheaton apartment building, which was damaged in a fire Thursday morning.

      Jill Markussen, right, gets a hug from neighbor Tina Bibergall in front of her Wheaton apartment building, which was damaged in a fire Thursday morning. Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

  • Wheaton firefighters battle a blaze Thursday in an apartment building in the 400 block of South Wheaton Avenue.

      Wheaton firefighters battle a blaze Thursday in an apartment building in the 400 block of South Wheaton Avenue. Tanit Jarusan | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 10/28/2010 5:18 PM

Three families must find new places to live after a Thursday morning fire ripped through a 2-story Wheaton residence containing three apartments.

All three units have been declared unsafe for occupancy, authorities said Thursday afternoon.

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One of the units at 419 S. Wheaton Ave. belongs to Jill Markussen and three of her children: Jasmin, 13, Joey, 12, and Franco, 10.

Markussen was featured in a recent Daily Herald article for organizing "The New Face of Homelessness" symposium, which was held Oct. 13 at College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. She moved into the Wheaton apartment after receiving housing assistance from Glen Ellyn-based Bridge Communities, which provides transitional programs for homeless people.

Calls to Markussen were not immediately returned.

Markussen's case manager at Bridge Communities, Molly Howieson, said the organization is seeking donations of furniture for an apartment it has available for Markussen and her children.

"We've already talked to Jill and told her that we have an open apartment that they can stay at," Howieson said. "We were just devastated that this happened to the family so soon after leaving the program."

She said Markussen's church is housing the family in a hotel until the apartment is furnished.

Tina Bibergall, Markussen's neighbor and friend, said she also was busy making phone calls Thursday to help the family find a place to stay after the fire damaged the kitchen and back bedrooms of their apartment.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The fire broke out at 9 a.m. and the Wheaton Fire Department had it under control within an hour, authorities said. No one was inside the building at the time and no residents or firefighters were injured.

Authorities are still working to determine what sparked the blaze. No damage estimates were available.

The other displaced residents will be staying with family members, firefighters said.