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No injuries in Aurora apartment fire

Updated: January 13, 2014 6:57PM

AURORA — It’s a job they are trained and conditioned to do, but one that never gets easier with time.

Even after 17 years on the job, Aurora Fire Capt. Gary Krienitz’s blood still gets pumping as he arrives on the scene of a fire.

That was no different Friday night, when Krienitz and his team pulled up to a burning Aurora motel after a guest reported smoke coming from the unit below.

The six-unit motel, on the 1000 block of Benton Street, wasn’t unknown to firefighters.

The department has responded to the property on multiple occasions for ambulance assists, but this time was different.

This time, smoke was billowing from the building, and they didn’t know who was inside the blacked-out room.

“Smoke was pushing out the windows,” Krienitz said Monday afternoon. The room’s door was locked, and there was no answer from inside.

“Instinct takes over, and you know someone is inside,” he said of the thoughts running through his head.

“We will put ourselves at much more risk to save a person than to save property. We will risk a lot when we know there is a life on the line.”

Victims unconscious

In this case, Krienitz’s instinct was spot on. Two victims were found inside one of the motel’s six units.

Both men were unconscious and rescued from the room. They were taken to an area hospital, then transported to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood where they were listed in critical condition.

“You train to save people, but it’s always a shock,” Krienitz said of finding the men.

$50,000 damage

No condition report was available Monday for either victim, which was frustrating to first responders like Krienitz and 18-year department veteran Bob Dunn, who was also on the scene.

The men said their ultimate goal is to know their work was worth it, and that they saved the lives they were sent to save.

“We are concerned about these people,” Dunn said. “We don’t care who they are.”

Fire officials said the fire was caused by a wall heater, and that there were no working smoke detectors in the unit. Damage was estimated to be about $50,000.

On Saturday, Aurora fire crews had a much better outcome when they responded to a two-unit apartment building on the 600 block of High Street where smoke and a small fire were found in the basement of the building.

There were no reported injuries in that event, and all residents were able to get out of the building safely.

The blaze was contained to the basement and caused about $5,000 in damage to the structure, officials said.

Safety issues

The fire was caused by items being stored too closely to a hot water heater in the basement, Mateski said.

Two families living in the apartment building were displaced and went to stay with relatives, officials said.

“Fires are inherently dangerous, and injuries can and will happen. But fires are preventable,” Dunn said. “Fire safety is hugely important.”

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