Empress Casino in Joliet Catches Fire
Fire Chief Joe Formahals said the fire at the Empress Casino in southwest suburban Joliet was sparked by the construction in an area where new seats were being added.
A lot of drywall was being stored in that area as well, he said.
Rarely does the Joliet Fire Department call for assistance but trucks from Troy, Rockdale and other departments started to roll in shortly after noon. Most appear to be water trucks.
Flames are still shooting out of the roof of the building at the casino on Route 6 as of 1 p.m. A second MABAS tender box was issued about 1 p.m. calling in even more departments to help battle the extra-alarm fire.
Frank Quigley, general manager, spoke to employees who had been gathering under the carport of the hotel.
“All kinds of kudos to you guys for pulling off an extremely professional evacuation,” Quigley said. “There were no injuries.”
He went on to say the fire appears to be contained in the pavilion area and not in the casino itself.
Michelle Bell, marketing director, said there was a $50 million renovation project in the pavilion area with new food outlets under construction.
Quigley asked employees to stick around for a while. “I really do not know what is going on yet,” he said. “When I know something I will tell you.”
No official reports have been issued by the fire department.
A ladder truck is spraying water from high above the roof. Smoke from the blaze is visible for miles.
By midday, firefighters were trying to contain the fire to the construction area, which is attached to the main casino complex, CBS news reported. Fire appeared to be spreading to other areas, but the riverboat itself was not affected. Scaffolding and other construction equipment was seen inside the burning wing.
Plumes of thick black smoke were rising from a wing of the complex, and violent orange flames were spreading across the roof. Construction equipment was seen around the wing that was on fire.
Bob Bennet of Joliet was in the casino around 10 a.m. when a voice came over the PA sytem.
“They told us we had to evacuate because there was a small fire,” Bennet said. “Everyone got up and left. It went well, there was no one panicking, no pushing or shoving.”
At first, gamblers were told they would be able to get back in after about an hour, but later were informed by security guards that the casino would be closed for the day.
Laura Carter of Orland Park had hoped to cash her $94 voucher but was told the vouchers would be good for about a year.
No injuries have been reported.
(Photo by Liz Wilkinson Allen/Joliet Herald News)