Fire guts area home; no injuries

By Bill Schwingel

A house fire Friday afternoon caused $140,000 damage and attracted about 50 spectators across the street as 24 firefighters battled the rooftop blaze.

One spectator was the owner and resident of the burning structure, Barry Lawson, 806 Lawnwood Ave. His wife, Nancy, was in the house babysitting the Lawson children, ages one, two and four, and a friend’s baby when the fire began, he said.

Everyone got out of the home safely and the Lawsons were able to save a rocking chair, photo album and lamp before fire consumed the house, he said.

Assistant City Manager Gary Boden said this was a “major house fire” as firefighters tried to bring more water “closing off the road for a while.”

The fire started about noon from fireplace ashes placed in the garage garbage, DeKalb firefighters said. The fire spread from the garage to the basement and attic. The blaze was contained to the one home and was under control in 50 minutes, firefighters said.

NIU President John La Tourette, who lives three houses down at 901 Lawnwood Ave., also was one of the spectators. La Tourette said it “gives me shivers” to think “if the fire happened at night.”

Initially, the DeKalb Fire Department discovered dense smoke coming from the garage and attempted to extinguish the fire from the inside of the home, said Curtis Dulohery, DeKalb assistant fire chief.

The fire became too hot to effectively fight, so firefighters tried to stop the flames from outside with an aerial vehicle, a fire truck equipped with a ladder, to spray the roof from above, Dulohery said.