Prophetstown fire challenges a caring community

Washington Street looks like a set from a Hollywood disaster movie on Monday morning. But in Prophetstown, Illinois, it’s all too real.

“Everything I own was in that building,” said Cindy Eriks, who spotted flames and called 911.

Shocking for Eriks and this close-knit community of about 2,000. The restaurant owner and upstairs resident escaped safely after fire carved an overnight path through historic buildings.

“It’s like the end of the world,” said longtime resident Jim Fisk, who recently completed renovations at one location. “It’s like the end of a small town.”

It’s like losing Prophetstown’s heritage. Many buildngs date back to the 1800′s. At the ravaged historical society, fear that many memories went up in smoke.

“This has been devastating to our town,” said Nancy Arians, a resident who also works at a nearby credit union. “When I came up here this morning and saw it, it was just disbelief. It was like, how could this happen to our town?”

Just hours after it began, firefighters work high above and close to the ground. Longtime residents can’t believe their eyes.

“I would have thought the rest of Main Street would be gone at this time,” said resident and business owner Bobi Jo Majeski.

The impact of the fire was so intense that you can literally see straight through some of the buildings.

Locals were coming to Washington Street to snap pictures. It’s a surreal scene. This is a disaster that hits too close to home.

“Some lives might have been lost, including mine,” Eriks said.

A nearby mural depicts how things used to be in Prophetstown. It’s bittersweet nostalgia considering the monumental tasks ahead.

Prophetstown in a Main Street community. It will likely be the program’s biggest challenge.

“This town is full of good people with good hearts,” Eriks concluded.

Good people in a real-life drama as this community searches for a happy ending.

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