'Sounded like an explosion:' 5-alarm fire destroyed Village of Genoa City apartment building

VILLAGE of GENOA CITY -- Emergency crews from more than a dozen municipalities -- in both Wisconsin and Illinois -- were called to a five-alarm fire in the Village of Genoa City in Kenosha and Walworth Counties Sunday morning, Jan. 5. Neighbors said they heard what sounded like an explosion.

Authorities said the fire started on the first floor of the two-story, eight-unit Pebble Brook Apartments building on Walworth Street near Freeman Street just before 9 a.m.

"Chaos," said Rick Coss, who lives nearby. "Absolute chaos."

"It sounded like an explosion," said Cheri Ross.

"My officer found one disabled resident, which it appeared the fire started in that apartment," said Chief Joseph Balog with the Genoa City Police Department.

The man whose apartment the fire started in sustained minor injuries. Officials said he had at least six oxygen tanks, and they exploded.

"I heard a couple of bangs and I looked out my bedroom window and I seen a bunch of smoke," said Rick Coss.

A firefighter was taken to the hospital for treatment after falling through the second floor onto the first floor but was expected to be OK.

Twelve people, including three children, were displaced as a result. Officials said all residents had a friend or family member to stay with. The Red Cross, along with officials area church, businesses, and neighbors offered assistance and made donations to the displaced residents.

Authorities said the building was believed to be a total loss. The cause of the fire was under investigation but was believed to be accidental.

"It's been crazy," said Cheri Ross. "Nothing ever happens around here. I mean, this is like, huge."

A resident's cat died, but authorities said a dog and a guinea pig survived.