MATTOON -- Investigators are looking into fires Monday morning that heavily damaged two separate, vacant sections of the former U.S. Grant Motel.
The Mattoon Fire Department reported in a press release that firefighters responded at 4:13 a.m. Monday to two working structure fires at the former motel, 1313 Lake Land Boulevard.
Upon arrival, fire crews reported heavy flames showing through the roof of the north apartment complex and smoke coming from the southwest apartment complex. These two structure are on the south side of Olive Avenue, across the street from the former motel's main building.
The on scene command requested a box alarm assignment due to multiple structures on fire. Additional personnel were needed. The Mattoon Fire Department was assisted at the scene by the Charleston Fire Department, Mattoon Police Department, Ameren Illinois and Dunn’s ambulance.
Fire crews worked to extinguish both fires. All apartments were vacant at the time of the fire. No injuries have been reported. The Mattoon Fire Department reported that the origin and cause of the fire is still being investigated with the assistance of the Illinois State Fire Marshal's Office. Investigators were still on scene late Monday morning.
Chief Tony Nichols of the Mattoon Fire Department said the two buildings where the fires occurred Monday morning had no electrical or natural gas service. He said investigators are trying to determine if the fires were caused by vandals, squatters, or some other factor.
"We are trying to look at all possibilities to see what might have happened there," Nichols said. He noted that one of the buildings that was damaged Monday morning also had been the scene of a Nov. 19 fire with an undetermined cause.
U.S. Grant Motel property owner Jessy Draves, who also owns The Castle pub nearby, said he has hired a local demolition contractor to tear down the most damaged of the two buildings in the near future and haul away the debris.
"I was already preparing to tear that down anyway. That fire kind of accelerated the process," Draves said.
The property owner added that he is still finalizing his plans for the other former U.S. Grant Motel buildings south of Olive Avenue, but he has finished renovating the two story brick house there and plans to rent out this house.