A Libertyville police officer driving down the 200 block of Maple Avenue early Saturday morning noticed smoke at just the right time to prevent a house from being completely destroyed by fire, authorities said.
When the officer saw smoke and heard smoke detectors beeping about 1 a.m., he immediately called for a fire department response, said Michael Cloe, assistant Libertyville fire chief.
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Before firefighters arrived, police searched the basement and first floor of the single-family house and determined no one was inside. They could not access the second floor or a sitting room on the third floor because of heavy smoke, Cloe said. One police officer injured his shoulder while searching the home.
When Cloe and his crew saw the heavy smoke and flames, they called for assistance, involving a total of 14 fire departments in the response. Firefighters began attacking the flames, Cloe said.
"As far as saving the structure, they did an amazing job," Cloe said.
The house, an older structure near the intersection of Park Avenue and Milwaukee Road, was heavily damaged in the fire, but a cost estimate was not yet available Saturday morning. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
A cat found in the home was rescued, but two birds died, Cloe said. The occupants of the house, who were out of town, have been notified and were returning to the area sometime Saturday.
"The police officer drove by at the right time," Cloe said. "Thank goodness the people weren't home."