Metro-East News

House deemed a ‘total loss’ after firefighters worked against winds and frigid temps

FEMA fire prevention and safety awareness

FEMA Regional Administrator, Andrew Velasquez and Fire Commissioner for the city of Chicago, Jose Santiago discuss fire prevention and safety.
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FEMA Regional Administrator, Andrew Velasquez and Fire Commissioner for the city of Chicago, Jose Santiago discuss fire prevention and safety.

Highland firefighters battled frigid temperatures and high winds early Wednesday morning after a home’s carport caught fire and the flames spread to the rest of the house.

The house, owned by William and Ashley Eck, was considered a complete loss.

William Eck later told crews he was leaving the house for work Wednesday morning when he saw a glow coming from the storage area of the carport. He opened the door and discovered the fire. He tried hook up the garden hose to extinguish the flames but couldn’t due to the temperatures.

He then helped his wife and one-year-old son out of the house and called 911.

Crews arrived at 1224 Lynn St. around 4:10 a.m., according to a release from the Highland Police Department. Both Highland Fire Department and Highland-Pierron Fire Department initially responded.

Highland Fire Damage
Damage from a fire at 1224 Lynn Street in Highland that burnt down a portion of William and Ashley Eck. Kavahn Mansouri

“Arriving fire units found heavy fire showing from a carport on the north side of the home. Fire was being fed by northwest winds of about 15 mph, pushing the flames into the house. Siding on the house to the north was melting and the house was off-gassing, which occurs just before it bursts into flame also,” a news release stated.

Officials said the extremely cold temperatures caused hoses and firefighters’ air masks to freeze, making them inoperable.

“Freezing water caused slip hazards and made navigating on the fireground very difficult. The spread of the fire was stopped within an hour but the deep seated fire took another couple of hours to completely extinguish,” the release stated.

Madison County Emergency Management Agency provided a rehabilitation unit to help firefighters with periodic rewarming and other agencies responded to help with with the firefighting efforts. They include: Marine Community Fire Protection District, St. Rose Fire Protection District and the St. Jacob Fire Protection District. An ambulance from the Troy Fire Protection District covered the Highland station for other calls.

The release stated firefighters worked in those bitter cold conditions and were covered in a layer of ice on their clothing.

“Their outstanding and relentless efforts were responsible for keeping the fire from spreading to neighboring homes, even when fed by the stiff winds,” the release stated.

The house is valued at approximately $105,000 and the family’s personal belongings were valued between $25,000 and $35,000.

A cause of the fire is under investigation by the Illinois State Fire Marshal, but the release stated there is no reason to believe the fire wasn’t accidental.

Belleville News-Democrat news editor Dana Rieck was selected as Editor and Publisher’s “25 Under 35 Newspaper Leaders” for 2018 and works with the Online News Association in St. Louis. She attended Colorado State University and grew up in Loveland, Colorado.