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East Moline fire: tenants and business owners search through the ashes

EAST MOLINE, Illinois -- As the East Moline Fire Department conducts its investigation into a massive fire that destroyed two buildings on 15th Avenue, firefighters have been guiding tenants and business owners as they search for valuables in the rubble.

"We try to protect when we can, we’ll give access when we can," said East Moline Fire Chief Rob DeFrance. "Maybe assist guiding residents in and out when it’s safe to do so, once we’re done or when that area is not part of our investigation," he said.

Bus driver Irving Landry lived on the first floor of the Johnson Apartment Building before the blaze. He said his apartment was spared from the worst, only sustaining water damage.

"Man I'm looking up here and it must be my glasses, it's like there's still smoke in the air," he said with a smile. "You know what I mean? You definitely can smell it," said Landry.

He could be seen in relatively good spirits gathering belongings from his home Friday with the help of his daughter-in-law and the East Moline Fire Department.

"Photographs are sentimental so families want to have heirlooms, photographs and things that are important to them," said Chief DeFrance. "And I mean it’s all different. People are attached to different things," he said.

Renters insurance should help protect many of the tenants from sustaining major financial losses in the fire. Of course, nothing can replace treasured family heirlooms.

"So being able to help people get those out after a fire, it's a good service," said Chief DeFrance.

The chief said the investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing, but that he could confirm it began on the second floor of the apartment building. He said the investigation would last a few more days.

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