It was three days of smoke and flames for Hoopeston residents, as June 2013 will be remembered for one of the worst fires in the city’s history.
Millions of gallons of water were dumped on the blaze that began around 5:30 a.m. June 19 at J and R Used Tire Service, located along Illinois Route 9 near South Market Street.
The thick black smoke — a byproduct of the burning tires — was visible for miles and forced the evacuation of a 24-square-block area amounting to about 1,000 residents.
Hoopeston Mayor Bill Crusinberry said he received the call a little before 6 a.m. that morning.
“That was one of our darkest hours,” he said of the building, which at one time had housed FMC, Hoopeston’s main employer for more than 80 years.
It took three days of manned trucks at the 400,000 square foot building before the fire was considered extinguished late Friday. Overall, as many as 24 departments and up to 150 firefighters were called in for mutual aid in fighting the blaze.
While it initially seemed like a dark time for the city, Crusinberry said it ended as a proud moment for Hoopeston as local residents — also joined by people and businesses around the county — provided an outpouring of support for first responders.
He said word went out quickly on Facebook and via word of mouth about what was needed at the fire scene. Soon, people were driving up to both the north- and south-end headquarters to drop off various kinds of food and water.
“It showed the people of Hoopeston at their finest,” he said. “The cars just kept coming and coming.”
Employees at Menard’s in Danville sent a pickup truck filled with bottled water to the scene for emergency personnel.
“It was one of the most remarkable things,” Crusinberry said.
While the main work battling the fire lasted three days, Hoopeston firefighters remained on call for at least a couple weeks afterward responding to signs of hot spots popping up in the blocks of rubble that remained on the scene.