GIFFORD — As the town's fire chief, Rich McFadden has spent years putting out fires on neighbors' homes and businesses.
On Sunday, one day before the four-month anniversary of a devastating tornado that ravished his hometown, McFadden and his team had to put out a blaze in his own building.
"For us in Gifford," he said, "there has been one bad thing after another."
Sunday's fire caused an estimated $300,000 damage to the M.J. Construction building. McFadden owns the property at 207 Main St., but a construction contractor lived there, he said. Nobody was reported hurt.
Firefighters were called to 207 and 209 Main at 12:06 p.m. Sunday. They were assisted by colleagues from Ludlow, Rantoul and St. Joseph-Stanton.
When they arrived, firefighters saw flames coming out of the side of the 209 Main building, which McFadden said had been damaged by the tornado and was unoccupied.
"There was a wood-burning furnace in the 207 building, and it appears there was a chimney fire," McFadden said. "So much of the building was just covered by tarps since the tornado. Somehow, the tornado must have adjusted the chimney, and when the wind started blowing so hard on Sunday afternoon, the fire got into the brick and then spread. There were rafters by the bricks, and the fire got into the rafters."
The fire was under control by 1:05 p.m. Firefighters left the scene by 2.
Investigators from the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System are looking into the cause of the fire to avoid a conflict of interest since McFadden owned the building, he said.