BY CAROL HICKS
City council members and the mayor praised the Hoopeston Fire Department, the fire departments that aided Hoopeston, all the Hoopeston city departments and IEMA who worked for three days straight to prevent a major fire from spreading farther and to protect city residents.
"It was not only Hoopeston’s darkest hour," said Mayor Bill Crusinberry as he commented on the loss of the historic FMC building, "but also its finest hour."
He added Hoopeston residents, businesses and organizations volunteered immediately, setting up stations at the Grant Township building to provide food, water and comfort zones to the firemen. No call was sent out for these stations, he said, they were just there.
Fire Chief Cliff Crabtree said about 32 fire departments and 750 firefighters were on the scene from Champaign County to Chicago to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., to prevent an even worse scenario. No firefighters were hurt or suffered smoke inhalation and no other buildings were lost in the fire.
The fire was contained in 24 hours, and the next 36 hours, said Crabtree, was spent hitting the hot spots. The Hoopeston department continues to monitor the scene and water down hot spots. Crabtree noted a similar fire, but smaller than Hoopeston’s, in Indianapolis had firefighters and departments on the scene for 12 days.
Steve Baker, sewer and water department Superintendent, added that 7 million gallons of water was pumped from the day of the fire to this past Sunday. Three million gallons were used the first day, which didn’t include the water trucked in to the site from local businesses.
"I’m thankful we have a water system that could handle it," Baker said. He contributed the constant communication with Crabtree as a major reason the water department handled the excess water usage. No boil orders were issued.
Wade Gockings, street and alley department superintendent, and his crew built the retention pond early the day of the fire near the railroad tracks north of the fire to hold the runoff to prevent it from contaminating area streams or the sewer system.
Crabtree noted the department was in the process of taking inventory on what was lost due to the fire. Presently the inventory includes 18 sets of gear to be replaced, 25 feet of 5-inch hose that was lost, as was the aerial truck. which blew a head gasket and will have to be repaired or replaced. Bismarck also lost some hose, which will be added to Hoopeston’s order. The inventory was incomplete as of Tuesday’s meeting.
Crabtree stated he received a call from the EPA to receive permission from the Illinois Attorney General to move things around to hit more of the hot spots. Lee Excavation will do the moving. However, it would be several more weeks before the EPA will release the site to be cleaned.
J & R Used Tire Recycling is responsible for the cost of clean up of the site. Hoopeston will not pay for the clean up, Crusinberry said.
In other city council business:
Mike Streff of Foth Engineering said he received a call and Hoopeston could have a loan offer by July 15 for the water tank project. The project needed to be added to the July 16th agenda.
Learned the EPA inspected the water tanks on June 5 and they were functioning satisfactorily.
Learned that residents with brush piles should place them by the alley for pick up due to the beginning of the summer roadwork.
Learned the new Hoopeston web site was functioning with work still to be done. Webmaster Curt Ellis had surgery and will finish the project when able.
The next Hoopeston City Council meeting will be held Tuesday, July 16, 7:00 p.m. at the City Hall, 301 West Main St.