Authorities: Fire at former clock factory in Ill.

January 1, 2012 - 9:15 AM

PERU, Ill. (AP) — A large fire that broke out around midnight in a former clock factory in the northern Illinois city of Peru has burned for hours and prompted a mandatory evacuation of residents on surrounding streets, authorities and local reports said Sunday.

An engineer answering calls for the Peru Fire Department says the fire began about the time of New Year's celebrations and firefighters spent hours battling flames but the fire was still not out just before daybreak Sunday. Engineer Gary Eccles told The Associated Press he had no reports of serious injuries, but one firefighter suffered a minor injury at the scene.

"It's still going," Eccles said by telephone when contacted by AP.

Peru police chief Douglas Bernabei told The News Tribune ( http://bit.ly/rX4RDU ) earlier that flames began in the northwest sector of the former Westclox clock complex that covers several city blocks. He said firefighters had made significant progress during the early hours Sunday but did not elaborate.

Neither police nor fire officials had an immediate report on a cause.

Eccles said the fire was large and fire units were called from several stations all around north central Illinois.

Area resident said they were surprised amid New Year's festivities.

"Just as we were kissing, I looked out the window and saw the fireworks, but it wasn't fireworks; it was fire engines," one woman attending a New Year's party, Karen Torri, told The News Tribune.

The report also says people in nearby homes were ordered evacuated as a precaution because of the fire. But there was no immediate report on the number of people evacuatd. The News Tribune said fire officials asked emergency personnel to undertake a mandatory evacuation along streets nearby.

The newspaper noted that the building, a landmark in the city that once housed Westclox clock and watch-making operations decades ago, currently houses several retail and small businesses. The complex is about four city blocks long and two blocks wide, according to the report.