Exterior fire ignites siding, seriously damages 2 townhouse duplexes on Chippewa Trail, Wheeling.
Police and firefighter/paramedics from Wheeling responded about 5:40 p.m. Saturday August 22, 2020 to a report of a townhouse fire in the block of 500 Commanche Trail and 1400 Chippewa Trail. A fire was initially reported in a backyard or side yard near a residential building. By 5:43 p.m. the fire was reported to be extending to a townhouse. A caller reported that a barbecue grill and an air conditioner unit at the side of the house caught the siding on fire. The fire was updated to a working fire response by 5:44 p.m.
Prospect Heights Battalion 9, on arrival by 5:46 p.m., reported two adjacent residential structure fires. Both buildings were confirmed to be located in the block of 1400 Chippewa Trail.
Initially no injuries were reported.
The fire was upgraded to a working fire on multiple reports of the fire and observation of a smoke header by a responding fire crew. Prospect Heights Battalion Chief 9 arrived first and discovered two structures on fire on Chippewa Trail. Two facing sides of two adjacent townhouse buildings were involved with heavy fire. Wheeling Fire Department Engine 42’s crew arrived just after Battalion 9, and reported they were pulling two 2 1/2-inch lines by 5:48 p.m. Prospect Heights also responded with a Tower Ladder and a Battalion Chief as part of automatic aid. Wheeling Fire Department also responded with additional engines and a Tower Ladder.
On the working fire response, Arlington Heights Fire Department responded with an engine and qn ambulance, Buffalo Grove Fire Department responded with an ambulance a Quint, and a chief. A Glencoe engine, a Mount Prospect engine, and a Palatine Rural FPD ambulance were assigned to stand by in Wheeling fire stations and a Prospect Heights station by 5:59 p.m. A Northbrook chief also responded to the fire scene.
Fire command reported three lines on the fire by 5:56 p.m. and a main from a Tower also on the fire by 5:56 p.m. An extra ambulance and engine were requested by 6:09 p.m. A Glencoe engine (moved up to the scene) and a Rolling Meadows ambulance were assigned.
Fire command reported a good knock on the fire by 6:12 p.m. with many crews exchanging air bottles by 6:12 p.m. Crews were working overhaul by 6:29 p.m.
A Des Plaines engine was assigned to stand by at a Prospect Heights fire station at 6:30 p.m.
Three additional fire suppression crews were requested about 6:32 p.m. A Northbrook engine, a Glenview engine, and a Des Plaines (move up) were assigned to the scene.
A Mount Prospect ambulance a Deerfield engine and ambulance were assigned to stand by in Wheeling fire stations at 6:33 p.m. An Elk Grove Township engine was assigned to stand by in a Prospect Heights fire station about 6:45 p.m.
Command reported that firefighters were using some foam for complete extinguishment and were about to start breaking down some hose lines at 7:04 p.m.
Two witnesses reported a delay of about 12 to 15 minutes from the time they first saw smoke to arrival of the fire department, but this duration was not confirmed. Using unofficial times, the first unit arrival transit was calculated at 6 minutes with Prospect Heights Battalion 9 reporting first on scene — immediately followed by a Wheeling fire engine (Dispatch time of 5:40 p.m. to first unit on scene time of 5:46 p.m.). There was a report that one of the homeowners attempted to extinguish the fire with a garden hose before calling 9-1-1. There is a possibility that there was a delay with that initial action using the garden hose, which was ineffective on the fire. The nearest Wheeling fire station to the fire scene is located on Wheeling Road just north of Hintz Road — about 2.1 miles from the scene with a normal drive time of 5 minutes. The nearest Prospect Heights station on Camp McDonald Road just east of Elmhurst Road is 3.6 miles from the fire scene with a normal drive time of 8 minutes. Initially it was unknown whether any of the first due units were out on the street at the time of fire dispatch.
The initial fire dispatch was referenced to Commanche Trail just west west of Chippewa Trail, possibly because of the fire first discovered in the backyard. Unconfirmed statements by residents and neighbors reported that the fire started at a back fence, and that the dry fence fire quickly spread to ignite the siding of the duplexes, or that the fire started in a kitchen and somehow was extended outside to the fence and then to the siding. There is also the possibility that the fire started at an air conditioner or a barbecue grill. Loud crackling associated with the fire was evident with possible dry wood burning along the fence and buildings. It is likely that if the fire originated at ground level, the fire extended up the side of both duplexes and to the attics of both buildings, where the fire burned through the roof in each building. Another resident stated that someone was burning something near the fence at the back of the yard, and the fire quickly spread to the buildings. No fire origin scenarios were confirmed by firefighters. Fire investigators are investigating the cause and origin of the fire.
Fire conditions were enhanced by dry weather conditions and dry landscaping. According to the National Weather Service observations at Chicago Executive Airport, winds were from the South at 12 MPH gusting to 21 MPH at 4:52 p.m. and similar conditions existed earlier in the day Saturday. At 5:52 p.m. winds were from the southwest at 8 MPH and no gusts. Weather conditions were similar in the immediate following hours of the evening. Air temperatures were in the upper 80s and low 90s beginning around noon and until about 6:30 p.m. with temperatures in the 80s until about 9:00 p.m.
The information in this article is an early report published before any summary information was confirmed or released by police or fire authorities.
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