EAST MOLINE, Illinois – East Moline fire investigators joined insurance investigators Monday (August 5) to try to determine the cause of a fire that swept through a business and six downtown East Moline apartments last week.
Fire Chief Robert DeFrance says his crews are still "narrowing down" a cause to the fire that burned through the building that housed a used appliance store.
Two firefighters suffered minor injuries but no one else was hurt in the fire.
Families who lived in the apartments have had a limited time to go inside to collect keepsakes. But there's little to salvage.
"I figured that maybe I'd pinch myself and wake up and it'll be all a nightmare," Amy Hoyt told us outside the burned out building that was home to her and her family.
"No. Because you wake and you're in a hotel."
Hoyt, her husband, and two daughters got out of quite literally, with just the clothes on their backs. Now everything they owned barely fills the back of her family's minivan.
"All my family photos that I saved of my kids, myself, my husband, my daughters."
"All of my ceilings have collapsed in every single room of my building." - Aimee Hoyt, East Moline fire victim
"When you lose everything, that's a lot to replace," said Michelle Horton with the East Moline Main Street association that is helping coordinate downtown East Moline's response to the fire.
She says it's been overwhelming.
In the days ahead, they'll let fire victims find what they need and even give them a place to store things until they get on their feet.
"You never want this to happen to you," said Horton.
Four days after the fire, smoke detectors are still chirping inside.
Fire Chief DeFrance says that sound saved lives that afternoon.
He also says three of the five displaced families had renters' insurance. He says that will go a long way toward families recovering their losses.
But the building may be declared a total loss.
Aimee said she's resigned to that possibility.
"It might have to be demolished with the rest of our belongings inside," she said.
"I mean I have to laugh about it because there ain't nothing I can do about it."