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Dry county: Weather conditions spark fires, render house uninhabitable

A firefighter sprays the inside of the attic of a house that caught fire at 401 Mary Ann Circle in Sycamore on Monday.
Mark Busch -
A firefighter sprays the inside of the attic of a house that caught fire at 401 Mary Ann Circle in Sycamore on Monday. Mark Busch -

SYCAMORE – Mulch. It locks in moisture for plants and prevents weed growth. Here’s the catch: When conditions get hot, dry and windy – like Monday – mulch becomes a prime source for fires.

Multiple fire departments responded about 3:30 p.m. to a blaze in the 400 block of Mary Ann Circle in Sycamore, where a mulch fire spread to and rendered the house at 401 Mary Ann Circle uninhabitable and damaged the neighboring house at 409 Mary Ann Circle.

The house at 401 Mary Ann Circle belongs to Marilyn Yamber of Yamber Real Estate and Property Management, Sycamore Assistant Fire Chief Todd Turner said.

“Before we got there, dispatch said the fire had spread to the porch, but it was a house fire by the time we got there,” he said.

Sycamore Police Sgt. Joe Meeks said Yamber burned her hand during the fire, but it was not severe enough to require hospitalization. No one else was hurt – residents, firefighters or family dog.

Firefighters got the blaze under control quickly, but the wind raised concerns about potential spread, with wind gusting as much as 30 mph in DeKalb County, said Gino Izzi, a National Weather Service meteorologist based in Romeoville.

“The fire was knocked down in about five minutes, but we had to open up the walls and get to the attic to make sure it was completely out,” Turner said.

Monday was a brute, with a perfect storm of warmth, dryness and windiness causing several fires throughout DeKalb County.

DeKalb Fire Chief Eric Hicks said his department responded to several calls, including three for mulch fires.

He advised that folks keep watch on mulched areas on their property, that they don’t burn any trash or yard waste, and abstain from discarding cigarettes under any circumstances – including out car windows.

“You get some kind of spark, and it’s bound to go up – and the next thing you know, it’s spreading to your house,” Hicks said.

Tuesday will be better, but conditions still will be concerning, Izzi said. He said Monday’s arid air condition was comparable to that in Arizona.

“Tomorrow will be more like Kansas,” Izzi said.

Nonetheless, NWS issued another red flag alert that will take effect at noon and last until 7 p.m.

Izzi said the humidity level will be up a bit, but that dry materials such as mulch and dry grass will only be drier, and winds could gust up to 35 mph.

As a result, he advised that even in the case of grilling out, people should only do so in wind-protected areas, lest any sparks fly.

“Once a fire starts, it’s going to be out of control in no time,” he said.

He said rain could come as soon as Wednesday evening, but that residents should check the forecast each morning to see what’s coming.

A barn at an abandoned farm in Clare was incinerated overnight, after a passer-by reported the blaze at 27640 Annie Glidden Road, according to a DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office news release.

A structure fire that incinerated a vacant barn and ignited a nearby trash pile Monday morning is estimated to have caused $20,000 in damage, according to a news release from the Sycamore Fire Department, which got the report about 4 a.m.

By the time emergency services arrived, the barn was engulfed in flames, the release said. Heat and sparks from the fire appeared to have started a second fire on a nearby trash pile.

Turner said it took about an hour to get the fire under control.

“It started burning the perimeter, but we were able to get it under control,” Turner said. “Then it was just a matter of protecting the house and silos nearby.”

The cause of the fire still is under investigation, according to the release, which added that the DeKalb, Genoa, Maple Park, Kirkland, Elburn, Burlington, Malta, Waterman, Marengo, Kaneville and Hampshire fire departments, as well as the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office and ComEd also assisted.

The Cortland, DeKalb, Genoa-Kingston and Hampshire fire departments helped put out the house fire on Mary Ann Circle in the afternoon.

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