HOOPESTON, Ill. (WCIA) — Firefighters are on the scene of two house fires tonight.
Crews are working in frigid temperatures and fighting strong winds as they work to put out the flames.
One of the fires is at a home on South 5th Street, close to Route 9. The house was fully engulfed when our crews arrived on scene.
The second fire is at a home in the 600 block of East Young Avenue.
A Hoopeston police officer told WCIA the owners of both homes made it out. They said both houses are expected to be total losses.
UPDATE — “Cause you never expect it to happen close to home and well it does,” Shelley Garrett said.
Shelley Garrett lives steps away from one of two homes that went up in flames.
The Hoopeston Fire Department responded to house fires on Fifth Street and Young Avenue.
As crews arrived to the first fire, a second call came in, about eight minutes later.
“Oh it was very crucial, very crucial, it worked out really well that we had as many people as we did, that we were able to have as many people on scene as we did within that 8 to 10-minute window,” Joel Bird said.
Joel Bird, the fire chief says because there are only 19 volunteers on staff, they decided to split crews.
The weather also played a significant role in fighting the flames.
“Like last night with the 50 mph wind gusts and 30 mph steady winds, the fires are driven by the wind, so it was hard to put the fire out and with the ice and everything being made from the water and steam and everything, it was a hindrance to us,” Bird said.
So, other agencies were called in to assist.
“We started calling in mutual aid and departments right away because of the cold temperatures,” Bird said.
Garrett said it worried her.
“Yeah, it was chaos last night, they were knocking on my door making sure I was okay, if we needed oxygen or anything like that,” Garrett said.
To help keep warm, crews…
“We try to keep our gear in house here or in our homes that way we can get dressed at home before we leave, so your gears already warm,” Bird said.
The people who lived in both homes were evacuated.
“As the wind picked up, the flames continued to get higher, higher and higher,” Garrett said.
Jared Rayls with the Hoopeston Fire Department says it was a long night.
“Probably five hours before we got a real break,” Rayls said.
Bird says despite the frigid temperatures, his crews were ready.
“We train well together, everybody knows every job we have up here as a volunteer department,” Bird said.
For Garrett, she’s just hurting for the families involved.
“My heart just brakes for them because it’s Christmas time and you don’t really expect stuff like that to happen,” Garrett said.
This is a developing story. We will continue to keep you updated.