Prospect Heights condo fire caused $10 million in damage

An estimated $10 million in damage was caused by last week's devastating fire that affected four connected buildings at the River Trails Condominium complex in Prospect Heights, according to an official report released Wednesday.

The fire, which was started accidentally by an 11-year-old boy playing with a lighter in a second-floor unit, caused $4 million in structural damage and $6 million in damage to building contents, the Prospect Heights Fire Protection District report states.

One firefighter and two civilians suffered minor injury during the hourslong blaze that was first reported at 1:23 p.m. July 18. The firefighter, who experienced heat exhaustion after nearly an hour's hard work at the scene, was treated and released from an area hospital that afternoon. Only one of the two injured civilians was taken to a hospital and also released the same day.

Roughly 50 fire departments and nearly 200 firefighters were on the scene before the blaze was extinguished.

Prospect Heights Fire Chief Drew Smith said the response was among the largest in the region since the 1985 fire that devastated Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights.

Three of the connected buildings sustained major damage while the fourth largely was spared due to efforts to contain the spread of the fire across attic and roof areas that included no internal fire walls.

In an accompanying news release, Smith states that a tall fence and lack of roadway access to the rear of the buildings inhibited efforts to prevent the fire's spread.

"This represented a huge challenge and delayed the deployment of firefighters and equipment to the area where the fire first entered the roof and where the wind was also blowing," Smith wrote.

Because the investigation concluded the fire to be started by a juvenile with no criminal intent, the fire district is not commenting further on the cause, according to the report.

In the meantime, clothing, shoes, toiletries and other items continue to be available for the dozens of residents left homeless by the fire. They can be picked up until Aug. 9 at Saint Alphonsus Liguori Church, 411 N. Wheeling Road in Prospect Heights, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays only, and 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturdays; until Aug. 11 at Lakewood Chapel, 1307 E. Palatine Road in Arlington Heights, between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and until Aug, 10 at Catholic Charities, 1717 Rand Road in Des Plaines, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The River Trails condo association board told condo owners earlier this week that the plan is to rebuild the fire-ravaged buildings, but the process could take as long as two years.

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  Last week's fire at the River Trails Condominiums in Prospect Heights caused an estimated $10 million in damage, according to investigators. Joe Lewnard/
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