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Tree falls in storm, fire erupts in Chester house

  • Chester and Steeleville firemen wrap up the fire scene on Stratton Street. The downed tree is in the lower right.

    Chester and Steeleville firemen wrap up the fire scene on Stratton Street. The downed tree is in the lower right.
    Jim Beers photo

  • The large tree that was uprooted by the powerful winds on Aug. 20.

    The large tree that was uprooted by the powerful winds on Aug. 20.
    Jim Beers photo

  • Ameren Illinois personnel with firefighters from Chester and Steeleville work on the scene.

    Ameren Illinois personnel with firefighters from Chester and Steeleville work on the scene.
    Jim Beers photo

 
By Jim Beers
Contributing writer
updated: 8/28/2019 10:17 AM

A sudden pop-up storm in Chester last week created a dangerous situation for firefighters and damaged a house on the 700 block of Stratton Street.

Chester Fire Chief Marty Bert said high winds on the afternoon of Aug. 20 blew a tree over, which fell on power lines going up to the house.

The tension from the tree ripped the lines away from the house, causing a fire.

Lisa Queen, working her job at Joe's Pizza in Chester, got a call from her neighbor, "telling me that my house was on fire."

Queen raced home, beating the fire department there.

"I ran to the back door and opened it and luckily my dog, Little Bit, came running. Thank goodness I was able to get him right away. There was no fire or smoke at the floor level at that time."

The Chester Fire Department got the call at 2:18 p.m. and got there within a few minutes, only to find live electrical wires on the ground.

"We had to be very careful when we arrived because Ameren had not arrived to disable the power to the lines," Bert said. "It was a very dangerous situation."

Bill Frazer of Ameren Illinois arrived to disconnect the service, making it safe for firefighters to begin pouring water onto the upper portion of the house where the service hookup had been.

"If Ameren had not arrived when they did, we wouldn't have been able to pour water on the house and the fire could have gotten worse," Bert said. "As it was, the fire was rather small and confined to the roof and attic area near the service hook up."

Bert called the Steeleville Fire Department for backup as a precaution.

"Thank goodness the fire did not get out of control, but it was sure good having the extra help from Steeleville," he said.

The main damage to the house was from the water poured onto the fire. Bert said firefighters had to cut a four-by-four hole in the roof to get to the fire.

"There is water damage to the attic and the dry wall, but the actual fire damage was limited," he said.

By the time the fire department left the scene at about 3:15 p.m. the Queen family and Little Bit were safe and sound but unclear as to their immediate future.