Fire at former Geneseo Baptist Church

Claudia Loucks
Firemen use the ladder truck at a structure fire that broke out at 209 W. Pearl about 8 PM Wednesday July 28.
Geneseo firefighters responded to a fire at the former Baptist Church at the corner of Pearl and Center in Geneseo Thursday night.

Firefighters and police officials were on the scene until the early morning hours Thursday, July 29, at a structure fire at 209 West Pearl St., the corner of Pearl and Center Streets in Geneseo.

The structure is the former home of First Baptist Church and had been converted into a single family residence.

Information from Gene Karzin, Geneseo Deputy Chief of Police, and Chief Brad Cotty, Geneseo Fire Protection District, stated that at about 7:42 p.m. on July 28, multiple 911 calls were placed indicating there was a structure fire at the West Pearl St. with flames visible.

Karzin said the initial 911 callers stated there were subjects inside the residence and that flames were coming form the area of the steeple. Geneseo Police Officers and Henry County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived on the scene within two minutes.

The first Geneseo Fire Protection District firefighters arrived on scene within six minutes of the initial call, according to the report received. Upon arrival of police and fire units, it was learned that a family of four, including a teenager and pre-teen were able to escape the structure.

An adult male reportedly was taken by personal transportation to Hammond-Henry Hospital for minor smoke inhalation, and was treated and released. No other injuries were reported.

The Geneseo Fire Department requested assistance from the Cambridge and Atkinson Fire Departments and information received by Karzin and Cotty stated that due to the large number of individuals and vehicles arriving in the area to observe the situation, the Geneseo Police Department requested assistance from the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, Atkinson Police Dept. and Illinois State Police.

There is reportedly substantial damage to a large portion of the structure, which at the time of the fire, was under construction and not occupied by the residents. The residential portion of the structure suffered smoke and water damage.

The fire currently is under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshall’s Office with the assistance of the Geneseo Fire and Police Departments.

The statement received from Karzin and Cotty stated, “At this time, it is believed this fire was accidentally started by ongoing construction work at the residence.”

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Geneseo Police Department, 309-944-5141.