John J. Taylor was driving Sunday afternoon on Illinois 161 when he decided to check out flames and smoke he saw coming from behind a house near the highway — a decision that might have saved a couple’s home from destruction.
Taylor pulled onto Hilda Ann Drive and noticed the fire department hadn’t arrived at a fire in the backyard of a home yet. Kristie Segerstrom was in the car with him, and she immediately called 911. They said they hopped out of their car and ran around to the backyard where the flames were coming from.
Taylor said he saw the fire was coming from some brush, and the flames were almost reaching the house. He busted open the backdoor and freed two dogs, one blind and one deaf, who were home alone. Taylor said he used a rake to tamp out and spread out the brush, stemming the fire’s progress, he said.
Northwest Fire and Swansea Fire departments responded to the scene shortly thereafter and quickly extinguished the flames, said Swansea Fire Chief John McGuire. The fire was started by leftover embers that had spread to the brush from an outdoor fire pit, the chief said. No one was injured in the fire, though the couple’s hot-tub cover and some of the backyard deck caught on fire and melted.
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“Fortunately, it didn’t get into the house,” McGuire said. “We were concerned about it getting into the attic, but we’ve already been up there and everything’s good.”
The homeowner, Debra Wolf and her husband, Doug, said they had gone out to have lunch shortly before the fire started. They received a phone call from a friend saying there was a fire at their home. Debra Wolf thanked Taylor, whose aunt lives on the same street, for his help in stemming the fire and rescuing the dogs.
“Thank you so much,” Wolf said as she handed her coat back to Taylor, who had loaned it to her as she stood down the block from her home on the cold December day.