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A 60-year-old man died early Wednesday morning after a fire filled an eight-story East St. Louis public housing building with smoke.

Authorities believe the fire began about 2 a.m. in a fourth-floor hallway at the Orr Weathers apartments.

Resident Arthur Jefferson, 60, was taken from the building near Missouri Avenue and North 14th Street and taken to a hospital. He was pronounced dead about 3:40 a.m., according to the St. Clair County Coroner’s Office. Authorities have not yet identified a cause of death.

All 91 residents of the building were evacuated, said Cortez Slack, chief of public safety for the East St. Louis Housing Authority. 

“We were the first to respond to the fire, and by the time we got there, smoke was pouring out of the first floor,” Cortez said. “It filled the whole building with smoke very quickly.”

Two security officers and a firefighter were treated for smoke inhalation in the fire, Slack said. 

The Orr Weathers apartments house low-income residents, including many seniors, Slack said.

After about two and a half hours waiting outside the building, most residents were allowed to return to their apartments.

Only the fourth-floor residents remain displaced due to heavy smoke damage as well as melted signs and light fixtures near the fire, Slack said. 

The 13 displaced residents were offered temporary housing placements through the Red Cross.

Erin Heffernan is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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