After the fire, apartment occupants dealing with bigger headaches

Local News

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Trying to find a place to stay isn’t the only problem for several college students who are now homeless after an apartment fire.

Almost 100 people were displaced after a four story apartment complex on Randolph street caught fire Friday night. On top of that, international students say their passports went up in flames.

UI grad student Swetha Sangubhotla was on the third floor– where the fire started– when she realized her life was about to change.

“I just smelled something,” she says, “It was a really subtle smell. And I went out to check what it was, and I could see flames on the balcony.”

She and 96 others got out safely, but their things did not. Sangubhotla says the roof collapsed on her and her roommates’ apartment as the fire ripped through it, and she doesn’t expect anything survived.

“Everything,” she says, “I didn’t even have my phone on me when I came out. So my passports, my important documents, my certificates from undergrad…”

Now, on top of replacing her ID and bank cards, passport, and finding a new apartment..

“We have our final exams coming up, we have to prepare for that,” she says.

Still, not everyone lost everything. “I think I’m gonna miss this place,” says Nathan Bogue, as he looks at the damage.

Bogue’s apartment is on the first floor, so he doesn’t think his stuff was damaged. It’ll be a few days before he can get to it.

“I just kind of left the building in my pajamas and no shoes,” he says.

But one thing all the residents “get” now is that fire alarms should be taken seriously.

“We’ve had a lot of false alarms, so I’ve very foolishly learned to ignore them,” says Bogue.

It took firefighters from both Champaign and Urbana more than 2 hours to put out the flames, They don’t know what caused it yet, but will be interviewing most of the occupants to try to figure that out. They hope to have an answer by the end of the week.

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