The origin and cause of a fire that damaged the Master Cast building in Batavia Wednesday night had not been determined Thursday, but it did leave the 94-year-old building uninhabitable, city officials said.
Investigators from the Batavia Fire Department, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Kane County Fire Investigation Task Force are looking into the blaze, which was reported around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, according to Batavia Deputy Chief Randy Banker.
It took firefighters about four hours to get the fire under control, he said. Efforts were hampered by the construction of the building at 106 S. Mallory Ave. It had heavy timber roof trusses that "burned for quite a while," Banker said.
A metal facade and roof that had been added on to part of the building created a void for the fire. "There were just so many void spaces," Banker said.
No one was in the building at the time of the fire.
Building Commissioner Jeff Albertson said the building is uninhabitable, but is in no danger of collapsing, so the city will not order its demolition.
A building just to the south, at 126 S. Mallory, suffered "minimal" smoke damage, Banker said. There is a firewall between the two buildings.
"The biggest problems we had were just the cold and the ability to get to the scene (of the fire inside the building)," Banker said.
Three firefighters slipped on ice fighting the fire, Banker said. Two were treated and released at Delnor Hospital, and one was treated at the scene, he said.
Banker said it does not appear there is anything suspicious about the fire.
The building was constructed in 1920, as the Lindgren Foundry, according to the book, "John Gustafson's Historic Batavia." In 1953, its pattern shed was destroyed by a fire at an estimated loss of $1 million. In the 1970s neighbors complained to the Environmental Protection Agency about pollutants emanating from Lindgren Foundry, and the foundry closed.
Master Cast, which does permanent-mold aluminum casting, started in a plant along the Fox River in 1969, according to its website, and bought the First Street site in 1977, according to records from the Kane County Recorder of Deeds.
The owners could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In 1985 another foundry across First Street, the Batavia Foundry and Machine Co., was destroyed by fire. That site remains an empty lot.
The industrial pocket around Mallory Avenue, from First Street to Main Street, used to be the outskirts of Batavia when these buildings were built, Mayor Jeff Schielke said Thursday. The residential portion of town went about as far as Harrison Street in the 1920s.