Brian Pflibsen stood in a small group of firefighters and state police officers Sunday, watching as fire departments worked to extinguish a blaze on his property.
A storage building behind his rural Lostant house, 837 Route 18, caught fire early in the afternoon. Pflibsen said he was working in the building, which housed a sawmill, when he noticed the fire shortly before 1 p.m.
"We were burning some stuff outside, and it must've spread to the grass outside the building," he said.
The National Weather Service reported a steady 5 mph breeze near Streator on Sunday, with 8 mph gusts. The Cooperative Extension System, an organization supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, states Sunday's wind speeds fall within the safe zone of burning conditions. The group says wind speeds below 15 mph recorded 6 feet above ground level generally are acceptable.
Pflibsen said he called the fire department and initially tried to put out the flames.
The fire spread quickly throughout the interior of the building. By 1:45 p.m., the roof had collapsed and the walls of the structure buckled outward. Lostant, Wenona, Toluca, Reading and Leonore fire departments were on the scene to contain the blaze, as well as Marshall County Ambulance and Illinois State Police.
While firefighters on the east side of the building fought the flames with a steady stream of water, crews on the west side stripped away the curling siding. Flames were visible throughout the remaining skeleton of the building as they worked.
A grayish-white column of smoke was visible for almost 10 miles down Route 18.
State police shut down the westbound lane on Route 18 between East Eighth and East Ninth roads. Firefighters directed traffic where it was down to one lane.