UPDATED: Three young girls escape fire with help from passersby

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.


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areader wrote on April 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Perhaps a good idea for an adult to supervisor small children who have access to burning materials . . . just a suggestion.  

Uh huh wrote on April 21, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Or maybe keep burning materials out of children's reach.  But either of these options would require at least an ounce of responsibility.  Perhaps the parents could get some parenting lessons as the children get lessons on fire safety?

rsp wrote on April 22, 2012 at 5:04 am

Because at 8 or 9 you can't let them out of your sight for a second? Put the hazardous materials away. But don't assume the parents are unfit every time something happens.

ronaldo wrote on April 22, 2012 at 8:04 am

Ding, ding, ding.  It took three responses before we got one that was on the money.

Starting with the absurd, the first response assumes the kids are never outside of the parents sight, which only happens in ones fantasy.  And at age nine, that would border on Mommy Dearest.  (And it would be "supervise", not "supervisor".)

Second one almost had it right, but again, there's no way to determine from the story whether the parents are slackers or parents-of-the-year nominees.  Who knows where they found the matches or what their history of being taught safety is all about?


grounded wrote on April 22, 2012 at 8:04 am

My 16-year-old daughter was the first of two passerbys on the scene. She noticed the flames in a back corner of the garage where the three little girls were and knew something wasn't right. She stopped her car, and went into the garage at the same time that another passerby stopped and while he tried to extinguish the flames, she quickly gathered the three little girls who were then crying, and took them out of the garage to safety. If it hadn't been for these two observant people (the garage is situated along a busy intersection but no one else had noticed in their rush by), the ending of this story might easily have been tragic. I'm proud of my daughter.

areader wrote on April 22, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I'm proud of your daughter also!!!!  She was very brave to do what she did.  Thanks to her and the other person, tragedy was avoided.  Good job!  My best wishes to your daughter and others who "step forward to help"! 

grounded wrote on April 22, 2012 at 8:04 am

And by the way, in response to your speculation above -

There were no parents at home, only a slightly older youth, who was in the house getting his hair done while the girls were playing in the garage. The mother was at work and had to be called. I know this for a fact, because my daughter was there at the scene, as I just shared above. 




mundaywas wrote on April 22, 2012 at 9:04 am

Kids do stupid stuff like this all the time. I remember being that age and jumping out in front of cars in the middle on the night to scare them. Hopefully, the kids will get grounded and 20 years later, look back and think how foolish it was.

imru95 wrote on April 23, 2012 at 10:04 am

Someone needs to investigate the parents.  I say that, not because I think kids need to be watched 24/7, but because I live in this area and have seen first hand the children that set this fire playing in dangerous situations with no supervision, EVER.  These children are constantly riding their bikes into the street, running into the street, and playing on a tow-behind trailer that is not secure.  They will run from one end of the trailer, tip it, and run to the other end.  One of these days, one of these children are going to be killed.  This is a very busy intersection and the only reason one of the kids hasn't been hit by a car yet is that it's at a 3 way stop.  Pay attention to your children.  I applaud everyone that stopped to help.


woopitydo wrote on April 26, 2012 at 8:04 am

That brought back some childhood memories for me, one of my favorite things to do was run back and forth on our trailer tipping it from side to side. It was an accident what happened. You can not lock children up, kids will ride their bikes and make child like decisions from time to time. Everyone has their own idea on what a good parent is, if this is the case of being a neglectful parent then ALL parents should be inspected. It is a very dangerous situation these kids were  in but it was an accident, a serious one, but an accident none the less!

allergic to stupid wrote on April 27, 2012 at 10:04 am

Child like decisions? Setting fire to a garage and costing 20K in damage is not a child like decision. Perhaps the mother should think about getting a more responsible person to watch her kids while she works.