Effingham fire - 300 block S. 4th St.

Photo: Effingham Fire Dept. 

EFFINGHAM, Ill. (WAND) - An apartment building fire is deemed suspicious and a person of interest is in custody after an Effingham fire. 

The building, located in the 300 block of S. 4th St., drew a firefighter response at about 2:45 p.m. Monday. Firefighters said they found heavy smoke billowing from the building and active fire on two rear floors. 

The two-story structure had been converted into seven rental units, responders said. One unit was actively rented when the fire  happened. 

Firefighters said it took them time to get the fire out, as flames had gained a foothold in the walls and roof assembly. Crews withdrew after a quick entry to check for victims and a "defensive fire attack" began, per a press release.

"While rescue is important in these situations, the safety of the firefighters is also paramount when confronted by the heavy fire and smoke conditions that had compromised the structural integrity of the building," said Effingham Fire Chief Bob Tutko. 

Firefighters said the fire was stubborn to extinguish, and responders were on the scene chasing "hot spots" until 7 p.m. Monday. They said windy, snowy and cold conditions hampered their efforts. Teutopolis and Shumway fire deaprtments helped at the scene, while Dietrich and Montrose departments provided station support at the two Effingham stations.

There were no injuries. Responders said a person of interest, who Effingham police took into custody at the fire scene, is in custody Monday night in the Effingham County Jail. 

Police handled traffic control in the area with the help of the Effingham Public Works Department.

The Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal is investigating the fire. The building is a total loss and, according to its owner, was not insured.