BFD responds to apartment fire on South Fess Avenue



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Bloomington firefighters work outside the Rara Avis apartment building at 417 S. Fess Ave. on Thursday night. Officials said one person was taken to the hospital.   Jamie Zega

A 21-year-old man was taken to the hospital for possible smoke inhalation after an apartment fire broke out at 417 Fess Avenue between Atwater Avenue and Hunter Street around 10:30 p.m. Thursday night. Police said the man is now in stable condition. 

Windows on the top level of the multi-story apartment complex, Rara Avis, were burned through.

At the time of the fire, police said they kept a friend of the apartment owners from entering the burning building.

BFD cleared the scene around 2 a.m. Friday.

Duke Energy assisted BFD, which reported to the scene with three engines, one ladder truck and a squad battalion.

A BFD captain told residents the downstairs apartments in the complex were mostly clear. He said upper apartments suffered mostly smoke damage, rather than fire damage. At about 11:30 p.m. he said carbon monoxide levels were four times safe levels.

The building's owners, Keith and Mary Alice Hoover, said they are still checking to see that everyone made it out. The apartments are mostly rented to students. 

The Hoovers have owned the building for about 25 years, they said, and have never seen anything like this. They said water damage and smoke will likely affect the entire complex.

Residents have been told to make plans for other places to stay the night. Hayes told the residents they would be notified later when it is safe to collect their belongings, but offered no current timeframe. He said in similar fires BPD has remained on the scene for one and a half to two hours.

Residents of the building said they heard the fire alarm, which wasn't as loud as they'd expected, and thought it was a drill. Sophomore Jackie Fung said once he smelled smoke, he left. Smoke could be smelled as far as two blocks away, neighbors said.

Junior Natasha Coleman was in the apartment with Fung when alarms sounded. She said she was watching Netflix and assumed someone was cooking, until someone left the apartment to see if the alarm was for something more serious. She said she could see flames below the door of the neighboring third floor apartment as she left the building.

BPD could not comment on the cause of the fire and damage estimates at this time.

This story has been updated.

Jamie Zega and Christine Fernando contributed reporting.

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