Almost 4 dozen displaced in DeKalb Husky Ridge apartments fire

Multiple agencies from across DeKalb County respond to multi-story building fire on DeKalb’s north side Wednesday

A DeKalb fire engine deploys a ladder truck as a firefighter scales upwards to reach the roof where the worst of the smoke swelled as crews responded to a structure fire at a Husky Ridge apartment complex in the 800 block of Kimberly Drive, DeKalb, on Wednesday evening, May 29, 2024.

DeKALB – Dozens of DeKalb residents were displaced from their homes Wednesday night as crews worked to battle a fire that broke out in a three-story apartment complex on Kimberly Drive on the city’s north side.

Onlookers and passersby huddled across the street from the building about 8 p.m. Wednesday at 809 Kimberly Drive, Husky Ridge apartments, to watch as firefighters from almost a dozen different agencies responded to the structure fire. No flames were visible as of about 8 p.m., though thick smoke wafted through the air, hanging heavy on the block below.

DeKalb Fire Chief Mike Thomas said crews responded to a 911 call at 6:35 p.m. and saw flames coming from the building and an evacuation already in progress. Officials said they counted 43 residents were displaced among the building’s 12 units.

“The initial size up was there was fire on two balconies and that they thought it got into the attic,” Thomas said. “It did.”

The building appeared to have sustained significant fire damage concentrated at two rear-facing units. Neighboring units likely sustained water damage, authorities said.

Three residents suffered smoke inhalation injuries from the fire, according to a Thursday update from the DeKalb Fire Department. They were treated by paramedics from DeKalb, Cortland and Malta, but not hospitalized, authorities said.

Some pets also were inside the building at the time of the fire, Thomas said, adding he did not know how many.

The building is owned by LKI Residential Properties Corp, according to DeKalb County property records. The building’s owner, who gathered with residents Wednesday night, told Shaw Local News Network that no one was injured because the building’s inhabitants got alerted quickly to the fire.

The building has been deemed uninhabitable due to significant fire, smoke, heat and water damage, totaling an estimated $850,000, according to the DeKalb Fire Department.

Authorities did not know as of 8:30 p.m. what had started the fire, Thomas said. Department officials said Thursday the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

DeKalb’s primary fire station, Fire Station No. 1 on Pine Street, responded first to the structure fire, Thomas said. The department called in a general alarm for mutual aid.

It took firefighters about two hours to bring the blaze under control, according to the DeKalb Fire Department. Crews remained at the building for about six hours to ventilate it, check for hotspots and overhaul the building for damage.

Crews from Sycamore, Genoa-Kingston, Maple Park, Rochelle, Elburn, Sugar Grove, Geneva and Cortland fire agencies responded, along with DeKalb city, county and Northern Illinois University police.

DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes came out to witness the fire response Wednesday night. He said the multi-agency response was a testament to the regular training first responders receive.

“It was pretty incredible rolling up on the scene to see the city of Rochelle there with their ladder truck, the city of Sycamore was there,” Barnes said. “Because a fire like this, you don’t know exactly how it may or may not play out. So our surrounding fire departments all know, including the city of DeKalb, when there’s a need when it involves multiple people, in this case 10 different families, the response of the fire departments is phenomenal. To be able to come out and make sure whatever resources are available to make sure human lives are protected and taken care of.”

Authorities from Nicor, ComEd and The American Red Cross also responded to help assist displaced residents, Thomas said.

Surrounding roadways and intersections were temporarily blocked off from traffic Wednesday night so authorities could make room for emergency vehicles. A citywide emergency alert sent at 7:48 p.m. Wednesday warned DeKalb residents to avoid portions of Normal, West Hillcrest and Blackhawk roads, and Kimberly and Edgebrook drives.

A second alert sent at 10:20 p.m. announced all roadways were clear except Kimberly Drive, according to the city update which asked residents to remain away from the road. The roadway was reopened as of Thursday.

Thomas said residents would not be able to return to the building Wednesday night.

“There will be quite a bit of damage for sure,” Thomas said.

This story was updated at 4:58 p.m. May 30, 2024 with more information from the DeKalb Fire Department. Another update at 5:38 p.m. included comment from DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes.

Have a Question about this article?