Crews continued to work on a fire at Murphy Warehousing Sunday morning hours after the building caught fire. A passerby called 911 around midnight after seeing smoke coming from the building. Crews arrived to find heavy smoke billowing from the building and heavy fire inside. Because of the size firefighter’s moved to defensive position to help stop the spread.
“There is significant damage here but when you look at the size and the scope and the magnitude of this structure we’re able to limit that to a very small area,” Rockford Fire Division Chief Matt Knot said while crews worked on the building behind him. “That was just because of the hard work of the men and women of the Rockford Fire Department doing that.”
But it isn’t the only large fire Rockford firefighters battled Sunday morning. Video sent to Eyewitness News from a neighbor shows flames shooting out of a vacant home in the 3300 block of Collins Street. The fire so intense, it caught a neighboring home on fire.
William Huggins lives in that home and said he woke up to hear crackling around 3 as the fire had spread to his home.
“I called 911, but then I went back in which was a mistake,” Huggins said. “Then the smoke had me and then I made it out the back door but it was close getting out. I almost didn’t get out.”
Huggins says the neighboring home has been condemned for over a year and a half and that he had to call the city in the spring to board it up because of people going in and out.
“In the spring time they were coming in and then I called the city and had them come over and board it up to keep that away and somehow they got into the back I guess and well you see it.”
This is now the 18th vacant house fire Rockford has seen this year, and the 6th in just the past month, which Chief Knot says is above average for the Forest City. While many, like Sunday’s on Collins, is still under investigation, Knot says arson is suspected in almost all of them.
“Most of them we do believe [are] arson. Like I said everything is still under investigation but we were able to rule a lot of the causes and we’re left with very few options but direct human involvement in those fires.”
Chief knot says Rockford usually sees 20 vacant house fires a year, which we’re only 2 away from hitting that number. He says if someone sees something suspicious to alert authorities before something like a fire occurs.
As for Huggins, he says he needs help getting his home repaired and so a neighbor has set up a GoFundMe for him. If you’d like to help out, a link to the page is below.