SAVOY — A Savoy family watched in horror Sunday night as flames destroyed the house where they had been picnicking minutes before on their back patio.
It was about 7 p.m. when fire quickly ripped through the home at 1410 Winterberry Road in the Fieldstone subdivision, which is across U.S. 45 to the east of Willard Airport.
No one was injured.
Jeff and Karen Baumann were enjoying dinner with their son, Ryan Baumann, at his home with their grandchildren, when flames from a barbecue grill apparently shot up into the eaves of the ranch home, quickly spreading through the attic.
“We were in the backyard having a cookout,” Jeff Baumann said. “He (son Ryan) grabbed a hose cart. It got in the attic.”
The flames shot high into the air and heavy smoke covered the neighborhood, drifting west and south. It could be seen for miles.
“There was heavy fire in the attic and on the roof,” Savoy Fire spokesman Eddie Bain said of what first responders saw. “Once fire gets in an attic, it moves very fast.”
The fire started in the rear and spread quickly to the front of the home. Initial reports were that a train delayed Savoy firefighters from getting from the main station on Tomaras Avenue on the west side of U.S. 45 to the east side of the highway.
In February, the village board approved spending about $73,000 to have consultants study the village’s present and future fire protection needs. Among the issues expected to be evaluated is whether the village should build a second fire station on the east side of U.S. 45.
Savoy firefighters used their aerial truck to attack the fire from above. Several departments assisted, including Tolono, Eastern Prairie, Edge-Scott, Carroll, Bondville and Cornbelt. The flames were mostly out in under an hour.
Champaign County sheriff’s deputies were there as was University of Illinois police officer Alex Tran with his therapy dog, Lollipop.
Dozens of residents stood on the streets watching the devastation in dismay.
Neighbors remarked that the house is a showcase on the block with an elaborate patio featuring a masonry fire pit for cooking. Baumann, his wife and their four children have lived in the house for about four years.
“They have lots of family here that will take care of them,” said Karen Baumann, hugging her husband as her son stood nearby in a neighbor’s yard choking back tears.
Bain said he would be taking a closer look at the patio to determine exactly how the fire started.
The house immediately south of the Baumann residence sustained damage to siding from the heat.