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updated: 7/9/2012 1:57 PM

Buffalo Grove man held on $10,000 bond in fireworks blaze

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  • Photo courtesy of Jayne ChorpashA Sunday afternoon brush fire threatened about 25 Buffalo Grove homes, as it quickly moved through a swampy area near Buffalo Grove and Aptakisic Roads.

      Photo courtesy of Jayne ChorpashA Sunday afternoon brush fire threatened about 25 Buffalo Grove homes, as it quickly moved through a swampy area near Buffalo Grove and Aptakisic Roads.

  • Photo courtesy of Jayne ChorpashA Sunday afternoon brush fire threatened about 25 Buffalo Grove homes, as it quickly moved through a swampy area near Buffalo Grove and Aptakisic Roads.

      Photo courtesy of Jayne ChorpashA Sunday afternoon brush fire threatened about 25 Buffalo Grove homes, as it quickly moved through a swampy area near Buffalo Grove and Aptakisic Roads.

 
 

The 20-year-old man accused of starting a brush fire that threatened to burn down dozens of homes in Buffalo Grove is being held Monday in lieu of $10,000 bond.

Gabriel R. Horwich, 20, of Buffalo Grove, has been charged with criminal damage to property by reckless means of fire. He is accused of lighting an illegal firework in dry brush near the 400 block of Cedar Court North in Buffalo Grove at about 1 p.m. Sunday, starting the blaze.

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Horwich must post 10 percent of the $10,000 bond in order to be released from jail, according to Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Stella Veytsel.

Firefighters from more than 20 departments helped battle the fast moving brush fire, which spread to a number of power lines and ripped through 30 acres of dry brush, officials said.

"We had a wall of 30-foot flames come toward our homes," said Buffalo Grove Police Sgt. Scott Kristiansen. "The flames made it as close as 15 feet to some homes."

The blaze, which fire officials said was fueled by dry conditions, burned down utility poles and torched multiple power lines causing about 2,400 ComEd customers to lose power. Nearly all power was restored by Sunday night, officials said.

An off-duty Morton Grove police officer in the area spotted four people running from the scene of the fire and was able to stop them before Buffalo Grove police arrived. Police said the group was lighting off illegal fireworks, which sparked the brush.

Horwich is charged with a felony count of criminal damage to property which carries sentence of up to 3 years in prison. No one else has been charged at this point, officials said.

"It was a large, fast-moving fire in the swampy marsh area," said Batallion Chief Shawn Collins of the Buffalo Grove fire department. "Companies began an aggressive attack and then escalated the alarm to get more equipment."

About 25 departments sent firefighters to the scene northwest of the intersection of Buffalo Grove and Aptakisic Roads.

Fire officials pulled crews back once electric poles and live wires caught fire. Firefighters then set up a perimeter around the blaze to prevent it from spreading to the neighborhoods to the north and south of the brush, Collins said.

"It's been so dry. In these kinds of weather conditions it doesn't take much," Kristiansen said.

Police quickly evacuated the residents of about 25 homes as the flames spread.

"We were very lucky no people were hurt and no homes were damaged," Kristiansen said. "The fire department did an exceptional job."

ComEd restored power to nearly all the homes by Sunday night, but the blaze caused about $150,000 in damages to the wires and poles, Kristiansen said.

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