Three-alarm fire guts northwest Quincy home; chief says neighbors saw squatters going in and out of building

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Twenty Quincy Fire Department personnel were at 623 Spring for a fire Tuesday morning at a two-story brick residence. | Shane Hulsey

QUINCY — No injuries were reported late Tuesday morning during a three-alarm fire at a single-family home in northwest Quincy.

The Quincy Fire Department said in a press release that firefighters were dispatched to a fire at 623 Spring. Engine companies 2, 4 and 5 and the incident commander were on the initial general alarm response. As firefighters were on the way, large amounts of smoke were visible from blocks away.

Bernie Vahlkamp, chief of the Quincy Fire Department, said initial reports indicated someone saw a person in the home’s basement.

“(Firefighters) did a quick search of the first floor and the basement and started putting water on the fire. Nobody was located,” Vahlkamp said. “Ameren crews said they shut the electric off to the building three weeks ago. Local residents reported that people — essentially squatters — had been going in and out of the building. On our quick initial search, we didn’t locate anybody.”

Upon arrival, crews found a two-story brick residence with flames coming from the rear roof and windows. Engine Company 2 entered the rear and did a quick search of the first floor, while Engine Company 4 entered and searched the basement. Engine Company 5 set up the Rapid Intervention Team. The incident commander called for a second alarm to assist, and Engine Companies 3 and 6 came to the scene. A third alarm was called to bring more manpower for the reserve trucks.

“After about 20 minutes, the roof started collapsing in,” Vahlkamp said. “We went to a third alarm, which means we’ve got all on-duty crews here — 16 personnel — and 10 guys called in off-duty to man all the trucks at Central Station and handle the rest of the calls the city might have.”

After the quick searches, firefighters found the second-story floor was burned out and parts of the floor were missing. The strategy was changed to defensive, and firefighters began to apply water from the outside with multiple hose lines and an elevated stream from Engine Company 2. The aerial platform was brought to the scene to better apply water from above.

All floors of the home suffered extensive damage, including collapsed walls. Fire investigators were called to the scene and are still searching for the cause. Twenty QFD personnel was on the scene, as well as 13 more manning reserve apparatus.

Assistance was provided by Adams County Ambulance, Quincy Police Department, QFD Rehab team, the Red Cross and Ameren. The owner of the house lived at that location and now is displaced.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The number of people living at 623 Spring was incorrect in a previous version of this story.

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