Grill started ‘Animal House’ fire, fire department says

By Tyler Davis, @TDavis_DE

A grill that was insufficiently extinguished has been deemed the cause of a fire that destroyed the structure at 208 W. Hospital Drive, a home known as the “Animal House.”

“It was due to misuse of a barbecue grill on the back deck,” said Doug Biggs, assistant Carbondale fire chief. “It started Sunday on the exterior of the house and worked its way in.”

Biggs said the house was destroyed but an insurance agency for Home Rentals, which owns the building, needs to finish its investigation before knowing the damage costs. He estimated the home’s value at $80,000.


Alicia Niemeyer, a manager at Home Rentals, said the four renters, who are all SIU students, have been given new living accommodations and are moved in together.

“We’re just trying to work with them, even though clearly the cause of their fire was due to their negligence,” she said. “We want to make sure that they’re not experiencing any more heartache than they have to right now. “

Niemeyer said the students were not insured for their property.

An online fundraiser was started to raise money for the students and 37 people have donated $3,030 in three days.

Niemeyer said the leasing company, which owns more than 600 residential and commercial properties, has not decided if it will rebuild in the same location.

The fire caused broken windows, burned shingles and gutters and other radiant heat damage to a neighboring home, said Fire Chief John Michaelsko. Home Rentals will have to pay for the minor damages.

Residents of the neighboring home were evacuated, no injuries were reported and they are back in their home. 


“We just wanted them to get out of the house because initially there was the potential for spread to the other dwelling,” Michalesko said.

He said about 24 of the department’s nearly 30 firefighters were on scene throughout the day. One firefighter was treated for minor injuries at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale and released.

During the Sunday blaze, Murphysboro firefighters helped man a Carbondale fire station in case of subsequent fires. Biggs said this is standard protocol and if the fire occurred at a larger structure, the department could call in agencies of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, Division 45, which serves 13 counties in southern Illinois.

MABAS, which is a statewide, non-discriminatory mutual aid service, helps provide areas with other municipalities’ resources in case of emergencies. It was created in partnership with Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

An instance in which Division 45, which includes Jackson, Williamson and Union counties, was deployed during the Harrisburg tornado in 2012, Biggs said.

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected]