Early Saturday morning, firefighters from the Fairbury City Fire Department and the Fairbury Rural Fire Department responded to a house fire at the corner of Sixth and M Streets, battling the blaze to prevent it from spreading to neighboring houses.
Fairbury City Fire Chief Steve Zimmerman explained that the quick response time to the fire helped to prevent it from spreading. He noted that it damaged the roof of a neighboring house.
“Basically the house within 15 feet of the fully-involved one was starting to catch on fire,” Zimmerman said. “They were able to cool that one down, and we were able to get everything under control. There were asphalt shingles that were getting to point where they were hot enough to start dripping tar. That’s how close we were to losing that one. Another five minutes and the radiant heat would have cooked them.
“Basically, we were in a defensive mode,” Zimmerman continued. “We were worried about the houses downwind because there were a lot of embers from the fire floating around. We did enter the house next door to check that it was safe.”
(Photos by Georgann Friedrichsen)
The two-story house, which is considered a total loss, was in the process of being restored. Zimmerman said the owner was out of the house at the time the fire occurred.
“The house was undergoing some renovations, so it had a lot of fuel load in it: papers, lumber and all kinds of different things. The walls were torn apart, and the individual was living in part of it as he was remodeling it. He had no insurance, but he did own the house. We were able to contain the fire to that house,” said Zimmerman.
The State Fire Marshal was on the scene and, according to Zimmerman, the marshal determined the fire to be unintentional.
(Photo by Penny Koss-Carbaugh)
“There’s multiple possibilities for the cause of the fire,” said Zimmerman. “We’re ruling it an unintentional accident. There wasn’t much left to work with. There was only so many things we could do.”
While the flames engulfed the structure, one of the walls to the house collapsed. Zimmerman said the City of Fairbury provided an excavator to take down the other walls in order to prevent any injuries. He explained this was an effort to prevent the rest of the structure from collapsing on its own and causing more damage.
Zimmerman emphasized how grateful he was to have a positive response with other agencies, including the Fairbury Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Jefferson County Ambulance, Jefferson County Emergency Management and the City of Fairbury. He is glad that no one was injured during the blaze.
“The fire was in control in less than an hour, but we were on scene doing a lot of overhaul,” Zimmerman said. “At first, we were not able to locate the individual who lived in the house, so the police and the sheriff’s office were searching for him, but the owner actually arrived on scene during the course of the fire. We were relieved that we didn’t have a fatality. We’re pretty sure there weren’t any smoke detectors in the house, so we’re glad no one was inside at the time.”