Six months later, Prophetstown says fire is “history”

Prophetstown Fire aftermath 7-15-13 photo submitted to WQAD by Dave Fox

Prophetstown Fire aftermath 7-15-13 photo submitted to WQAD by Dave Fox

Six months since fire destroyed eight buildings in the heart of downtown Prophetstown, Illinois, residents say they’re ready to move forward.

On July 15, 2013, police say two boys lit a recycling bin on fire. That fire spread to eight historic buildings that housed both homes and businesses.

Tuesday, snow and evergreen trees marked the empty lots on Washington Street.

“There’s just been this big void every time you drive through town,” said resident Glenda Sampson. “All the buildings that we had seen all the time, which we took for granted… you drive by, and there’s just this emptiness.”

Tuesday, one of two boys charged with starting the fire pleaded guilty, according to the Sterling Daily Gazette. The 12-year-old was sentenced to two days in jail and five years probation. His 16-year-old brother’s court date is set for next month.

Since July, Prophetstown’s Main Street organization has created an economic recovery committee. Member Dan Drummet said nothing is set in stone just yet, but the group hopes to see several new buildings going up this year.

At Prophet Family Restaurant, Julie Stees hopes to see some growth downtown as well.

“If they could get more businesses, then maybe we could bring in more people,” Stees said.

Something positive, though, does seem to have come from the fire. Residents say the sad event has brought the community closer than ever before.

“Everybody’s doing their own thing. You go to a committee, you do this, you do that… and then, when something really bad happens, everybody comes together,” said Sampson.

And Prophetstown is now ready to leave the past behind.

“It’s kind of getting to be history now, so we’re moving on,” said Drummet.