UPDATED: Three young girls escape fire with help from passersby
Updated at 5:15 p.m. on April 22:
RANTOUL — Three young girls who accidentally set fire to a garage Saturday afternoon are safe today thanks to the quick actions of two passersby.
Sarah Huff was driving home when she saw smoke coming from the garage. She thought maybe it was from a fireplace — but that didn’t sound right, so she stopped, turned around and went back.
She was surprised when she found three young girls laying on the ground and laughing as the fire grew in a corner of the garage.
“They were just laying down and they were playing in there,” Huff said. “I’m not really sure they knew how bad it was.”
Another man had stopped and gotten out by then, Huff said. He tried to beat out the flames while Huff ushered the girls out of the garage.
“That’s when they realized the fire was bad and they started screaming and crying,” Huff said.
The man’s attempt to put out the fire was hopeless. The fire grew fast, Huff said, and they quickly decided to call 911.
The original story, posted at 7:13 p.m. on April 21:
RANTOUL — Three young girls playing with matches and lighter fluid accidentally set fire to a garage Saturday afternoon in Rantoul.
Rantoul Fire Chief Ken Waters said the two-car garage at 500 N. Sheldon St. was destroyed.
"When we got there, the garage was fully involved. Flames were shooting 25 feet in the air. The fire was impinging on a 69,000-volt power line right above it," he said.
A passer-by noticed the fire at 5:05 p.m. and firefighters had it out fairly quickly.
Within minutes of their arrival, police and fire officials had figured out that the fire was started by the girls. Waters didn't know their ages but said they all appeared to be under the age of 9.
"They were making pies with lighter fluid and matches," Waters said.
There were no vehicles in the garage, which contained just a few items such as a couple of televisions, Waters said. He said the property is owned by Mike Fox.
"There wasn't anything else around. The house was 15 to 20 feet away. We cooled off the house but it wasn't hurt," he said.
A village power-plant employee checked the power line but didn't find any obvious damage, Waters said.
About 16 Rantoul firefighters showed up to help. They were back in the station at 6:35 p.m.
Waters said the fire department has a program for juvenile fire-setters and will be sharing information with the girls and their parents.
He said he wasn't sure where the girls' parents were when the fire started but said a mother of one or more of the girls was at the scene.
Waters estimated the loss at $20,000.