Investigators search for cause of Mount Prospect apartment blaze

Investigators continue to search for what sparked a Mount Prospect apartment fire Monday evening that gutted the 36-unit building and displaced about 100 residents.

Fire struck the three-story building in the 1800 block of West Palm Drive at about 6:45 p.m. Monday. The blaze raged into the early morning, when it was finally extinguished at 3:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Fire investigators and other personnel didn’t get into the building at the Orion Parkview Apartments until Tuesday afternoon, after it was deemed safe enough by structural engineers.

“They still have not determined a cause, but they are doing all the preliminary legwork that hopefully will answer some questions,” Mount Prospect Fire Chief John Dolan said.

Dolan said fire investigators are taking photos, interviewing residents and trying to understand the setup of the building.

“They’re dedicating the day to looking at other buildings in the complex, just to get an idea of what the layout of the damaged building was,” Dolan said Wednesday.

Looking at the other buildings helps understand not only the layout, but also the infrastructure such as electrical components and the HVAC system, he added.

The preliminary investigation should wrap up in the next day or two, but then investigators will need to review the data they collected and piece together what occurred.

Also at the apartment complex Wednesday was Mount Prospect Human Services Director Julie Kane. Her department is assisting families displaced from the 35 occupied units — one unit was vacant. Representatives from the Red Cross also were on hand.

“Every family will be assigned a social worker,” Kane said.

“Often in times of crisis, needs arise that many people are not aware of or have not considered,” she added. “A displaced person may not have any identification with them, they may not have access to their credit cards to buy food, they may not have a phone or any way of contacting loved ones.”

Those left homeless will have access to the village’s food pantry. Donations of nonperishable food items as well as gift cards can be made at village hall and the police station. For more information on where and how to donate, and the items most in need, visit mountprospect.org/departments/human-services.

Among the displaced residents back on the scene Wednesday was Ganesh Balasubramanian, who said he already is looking for a new apartment. For now, he’s staying with a friend in another building at the complex.

“All my belongings are there,” he said of his second-floor apartment in the gutted building.

He and other residents have not been allowed back in to retrieve belongings that may have been spared.

“They said that it’s not safe,” Balasubramanian said.

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