UTICA — A large section of vacation homes caught fire at Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock in Utica on Monday evening, sending plumes of smoke into the sky visible from several miles away.
Utica Fire Chief Ben Brown reported dispatchers elevated the call to a five-alarm fire within 25-30 minutes of responding. The fire was contained to a perimeter as of 9:30 p.m. Monday night.
Brown said there have been no injuries reported, and no evidence of arson. The La Salle County State’s Attorney’s Office also said there has been no conversation of arson. Brown said no known cause has been identified, though the office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal was sent for investigation.
Firefighters, however, identified the source of the fire. The fire is believed to have originated on the porch of Cabin 19 (cabins are comprised of four connecting units). The fire then quickly spread to neighboring Cabin 18.
“It went quick,” said Quentin Hull of Bloomingdale, who occupies a nearby villa (not believed to be burned) and was told to evacuate. “It went up like that.”
Firefighters were spotted on scene from as far as Morris, Minooka, Plainfield, Braidwood, Wilmington and Newark.
A total of 57 fire departments and 13 MABAS division assisted at the scene, said Drew Partain, assistant Utica fire chief. Seven cabin structures were total losses. Each cabin is divided into about four areas.
Just before midnight Tuesday, the Utica Fire Department said the fire at the Grand Bear Resort cabins is under control.
Multiple fire companies were dispatched to a section of the vacation villas located roughly southwest of the resort and conference center. At 6:05 p.m., roughly 25 minutes after the emergency dispatch, structures still were actively involved, and an aerial ladder truck was attempting to douse the flames.
Matthew Kosch, vice president of Sonnenschein Groupe, which owns the resorts, said he still was requesting information. Kosch noted the villas affected are neither owned, nor managed by the resort. They are privately-owned.
As a precaution, the Grand Bear lodge and water park have been evacuated, along with villa occupants. Grand Bear Resort posted a message that everyone on the property was evacuated safely and the fire is being contained. The lodge, the waterpark and a majority of the cabins and villas on-site have not been affected.
This story will be updated. Stick with the NewsTribune and Shaw Local for updates.