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updated: 7/5/2012 10:07 PM

Fireworks, extreme drought cause of brush fire in Long Grove

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By David Conway

A rapidly growing brush fire in Long Grove Wednesday afternoon that burned approximately 18 acres of land was started by the use of illegal fireworks and exacerbated by extremely dry conditions, the Long Grove Fire Protection District announced in a news release Thursday.

Members of the Long Grove Fire Protection District and the Lake County Sheriff's Department are investigating the fire and a male subject has been taken in for questioning by the sheriff's department, the fire department news release said.

Though residential subdivisions were adjacent to the area in which the fire burned, no structures were damaged.

According to the news release, a Long Grove Fire Protection District brush fire truck arrived on the scene at 3448 Hidden Valley Road at 4:05 p.m. Wednesday, immediately requesting a tanker and a chief officer at the fire. Within four minutes, the situation was upgraded again for a full structure fire assignment, the second of several upgrades as the fire grew.

More than 30 fire departments responded to the area north of Route 53, off Middlesax Drive. That included the Lake and McHenry Counties Wildland Fire Task Force, which specializes in fighting wetland fires. Using about 20,000 gallons of water to extinguish the flames, fire personnel left the scene at 11:03 p.m., almost seven hours after the first truck arrived.

The scene in the area was calm Thursday morning. With the affected land hidden behind houses and trees and the emergency vehicles gone, it was hard to believe a sizable fire had raged nearby. A distinct smell of burning filled the air, but if it weren't for the ash that accompanied it, one might mistake it for the lingering remnants of July 4 cookouts and bonfires.

Mary Lou Lubrano, of 3449 Monitor Lane in Long Grove, recalled a very different scene the previous night. Returning to her home at 8:30 p.m., she was greeted by fire trucks lining her tiny street.

She said her neighbors across the street were practically at the fire's doorstep, assisting fire personnel in beating back the flames along the property line. Later, one of those neighbors would tell Lubrano about how quickly the fire spread.

"When it first started, it seemed very small," Lubrano said, describing what she had been told. "All of a sudden, he was out there and two football field lengths went up in flames."

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