8 families displaced, firefighter injured after fire starts at Genoa City apartment building

NOW: 8 families displaced, firefighter injured after fire starts at Genoa City apartment building

GENOA CITY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Crews from 20 departments battled a large apartment fire in Genoa City.

The Bloomfield-Genoa City Fire Department was called just before 9 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 5, to a fire at an eight-unit apartment building in the 700 block of Walworth Street. It was quickly upgraded to a five-alarm fire because firefighters needed more manpower and extra equipment.

"I was watching TV and I heard what sounded like an explosion, and I'm like, 'What was that?' I came outside and there was a bunch of smoke, a lot of smoke," said Cheri Ross, who lives in a nearby building.

One firefighter was taken to Northern Illinois Medical Center with minor injuries but is expected to be OK.

"He apparently fell through the second floor onto the first floor while trying to put the fire out," said Joseph Balog, chief of the Genoa City Police Department.

William McCormack was visiting relatives in a building next to the apartment complex where the fire happened. He and the first police officer on the scene banged on doors to all the units.

"I looked over my shoulder. It was engulfed in flames over there, so I just took off running trying to get everybody out of the building," he said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but authorities say it started in a first-floor unit that is home to a resident who is disabled. Capt. Jeremy Tamillo from the Bloomfield-Genoa City Fire Department said the man had half a dozen oxygen tanks in his apartment that caused explosions.

Twelve people are now displaced, including three children. The Red Cross is assisting the families.

Several pets were rescued, but one cat did not make it out.

"I know a lot of people in that building and I hope that they get the help they need to repair," said Virginia Burkhart, who lives nearby.

Donations for those affected by the fire are being taken at Village Hall and the First Congregational UCC. Several local restaurants also donated food to the families who were displaced.

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