Two barns, two homes burn to total loss


AMBOY — Easter weekend is supposed to be joyful as people spend time with their families.

However, for a few barn owners, a few homeowners, and firefighters and EMTs in Amboy, Sublette, other agencies in Lee County, Whiteside County, Ogle County, and Bureau County, it wasn’t a typical holiday.

“Easter weekend was a busy, busy weekend. At about 5 p.m. Saturday (April 8), we received a call about a barn fire on Rt. 52,” said Amboy Fire Chief Jeff Bryant Sr. “The second fire was a structure fire at about midnight, Saturday night and Sunday morning. The next barn fire was at 5 p.m. on Sunday, which was a different location than the first barn fire, but still on Rt. 52. The last structure fire was at 1 a.m. on Monday.

“I have been involved with the Amboy Fire Department for 26 years. I have never seen so many fires in such a short time before,” Chief Bryant Sr. said. “We haven’t had anything like this. Maybe a few grass or field fires when it’s windy, but nothing as far as structural fires. The first question everyone has asked is, ‘Is arson was involved?’

“These are just four terrible, individual, separate, non-related incidents.”

The four fires happened in a 34-hour period April 8-10. All four buildings were ruled a total loss. 

According to Bryant Sr., currently, the reported cause of the two barns is open burning. The two houses are under investigation by the Illinois State Marshalls Office. 

The first house fire started in the basement and had already ate away at the floor of the first story when departments arrived. The second house was engulfed on arrival.

Both the Amboy and Sublette Fire Departments had letters of thank you to the other units involved in putting out the fires.

“There was a lot going on. It was hard on equipment and hard on people. It was a holiday weekend on top of it. We all pulled together,” Bryant Sr. said. “Hopefully moving forward, all the involved units can work and train together like we have been. It’s important for the units in the area to have good relationships. With it being Easter weekend, some agencies weren’t readily available, so we had agencies from a little further away assisting us.”

The number of fires in a short stretch of time took its toll.

Equipment was in constant use.

More help could have been used.

“Certain amounts of equipment have to be regenerated before another use. Hoses, apparatus, and turn out gear all has to be cleaned,” Chief Bryant Sr. said. “During the 34-hour period, the cleaning was a continuous motion.

“There were enough people, but it would have great to have a few more. We’re always looking for individuals who would like to be firefighters or individuals who would like to be EMTs, or both. You can treat it as community involvement or a part-time job, but we definitely need people at all agencies throughout the area. We’re at a critical point when it comes to needing people.”

Chief Bryant Sr. also stated the importance of alarms and smoke detectors.    

“We highly recommend smoke detectors have working batteries and be tested regularly. It is a life and death matter.”