Rural firefighters battle blazes in Golden, Coatsburg in sub-zero temperatures within hours of each other

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COATSBURG, Ill. — Firefighters from central and eastern Adams County didn’t get much rest Wednesday morning.

Bill Phillips, chief of the all-volunteer Central Adams Fire Protection District, said he got home at about 3 a.m. Wednesday after battling a fire at a two-story Golden home on Tuesday night.

“We left the scene at around 1 or 2 (in the morning), and by the time we got everything cleaned up, put air back in the truck and got everything shipped back, it was 3 o’clock,” Phillips said. “By the time I got my little two and a half hours of sleep, we got paged again for a fire that started in our district.”

Pat Frazier, deputy chief with the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, said deputies received a call at 5:41 a.m. Wednesday to respond to a fire at 1741 Highway 24 — on the south side of the road just east of the viaduct. He said the homeowner, the only person in the house, was outside directing first responders to the fire.

Frazier said the Coatsburg home was a total loss. Phillips said the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“I had two firefighters make an initial attack, and they did a good job of knocking it down,” Phillips said. “But (the fire) flashed over on us, and it was basically fully involved when we showed up, so it was gone. We had to go into defense mode.”

Phillips said eventually “right around 30” firefighters from the various departments were at the fire in Coatsburg. Many of them also were at the Golden fire.

U.S. 24 was shut down until approximately noon Wednesday because water from the firefighting efforts was freezing on the road. The temperature at 6 a.m. Wednesday was minus-5 degrees.

Phillips said firefighters from Golden and Clayton used their tankers to transport 55,000 gallons of water to the Coatsburg home. Firefighters from Mendon were called in to assist the Central Adams Fire Protection District and the Camp Point Fire Department. 

Frazier says sub-zero temperatures like the area has endured for the past week often lead to fires caused by misused space heaters.

“I don’t have any details,” he said, “but we definitely see an uptick.”

“I don’t have any facts, but that’s on my mind (for explaining recent fires),” Phillips said. “I’m not certified, but I’ve been to so many arson classes that I know what I’m doing.”

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