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Firefighters rescue pets, salvage Christmas presents

Elgfirefighters hold bags Christmas gifts they were able salvage from midday house fire 1338 Sheffield. Firefighters also saved three dogs

Elgin firefighters hold bags of Christmas gifts they were able to salvage from a midday house fire at 1338 Sheffield. Firefighters also saved three dogs and a lizard that were inside at the time. No one was injured. | Bill O'Neill~For The Courier-News

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Updated: January 16, 2012 10:28AM

ELGIN — Three family dogs and a pet lizard were saved Wednesday following a midday house fire likely caused by a live Christmas tree that ignited, according to the Elgin Fire Department.

While loss estimates on the home were not yet available, Fire Battalion Chief Tim Michaels said damage to the home at 1338 Sheffield Drive was extensive and that the family living there would likely be displaced for several days.

The family has been offered temporary housing at the West Dundee Marriott Courtyard motel off Route 31, he said, adding that no one was injured in the blaze.

Firefighters were called to the northwest side home at 11:46 a.m., and the first firetrucks arrived three minutes later, Michaels said. “The fire was venting out the front window,” with heavy smoke reaching 30 feet or higher in the air, he said. 

According to Michaels, the family said “they heard a ‘pop’ in the area of the Christmas tree” and when one of the residents went into the living room to investigate, she found “the Christmas tree was on fire. That started the couch on fire,” he said.

The woman then got out of the house and called 911. The rest of the family got out safely as well.

The fire was put out by 12:08 p.m., and that is when firefighters were able to retrieve a lizard that was in the tri-level home’s basement, a dog that was on the second floor, and two other dogs that were in run cages near the back of the home, he said.

He was most concerned about the dog — reported to be a bull mastiff — on the second floor, because smoke and heat rise, Michaels said.

“When they marched him out of the side door, it was unbelievable,” Michaels said. “It was pretty grim when we pulled up.”

Christmas tree-related fires are not uncommon in Elgin, but this is the first one reported so far this season, Michaels said.

“Live Christmas trees ... if they are ignited, they burn intensely,” Michaels said. “It burns in a short time and consumes itself quickly.” 

His advice for homeowners with live trees is to keep them well-watered, keep any candles or other things that could cause a fire away from the trees, and to remove them from a home as soon as the holidays are over.

Sun-Times Media contributed to this report.

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