DANVILLE — Local and state fire officials say arson is to blame for a fire that destroyed a large barn owned by the University of Illinois this week.
Firefighters from the Lynch Area Fire Protection District were called to the barn fire on South Union Road, several miles south of Danville, about 5:30 a.m. Wednesday.
When they arrived, the two-story barn had all but burned to the ground, Lynch Fire Chief Scott Weidig said.
"It had been burning for several hours, and we didn't know it," he said, adding an area resident eventually noticed the blaze and called 911. "There wasn't a lot we could do."
Weidig said about 20 to 25 firefighters extinguished what was left of the blaze and stayed on the scene for several hours to make sure there weren't flare-ups.
Firefighters from the Westville and Tilton fire departments assisted on the scene, while others from the Bismarck Fire Protection District were on standby.
Weidig said investigators from the state fire marshal's office and the I&I Firefighters Association, as well as UI police, were at the scene later to try to determine the cause.
"It's definitely going to be an arson fire," he said, adding there were no utilities to the barn. "There was nothing there that would cause a fire."
The state fire marshal's office is leading the arson investigation, Weidig said.
The UI owns property along South Union Road and used to operate a large telescope in the area, Weidig said. He said the barn housed telescope parts and other obsolete equipment belonging to the university. He said an area farmer also had been using the barn to store straw bales.
Damage estimates weren't available on Thursday afternoon.