Fire damages about 30 acres of Cook County forest preserve

  • A mulch pile continued to burn Tuesday at Down To Earth Landscaping along Old Sutton Road near South Barrington. The wind carried embers from the fire Monday and charred about 30 acres of Forest Preserves of Cook County.

      A mulch pile continued to burn Tuesday at Down To Earth Landscaping along Old Sutton Road near South Barrington. The wind carried embers from the fire Monday and charred about 30 acres of Forest Preserves of Cook County. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/27/2021 2:59 PM

Firefighters doused smoldering ashes Tuesday at the source of a fire from the previous day at a South Barrington-area landscaping company that also charred about 30 acres of nearby Spring Creek Forest Preserve.

Firefighters responded at 3:42 p.m. Monday to a fire started by spontaneous combustion of mulch piles at Down to Earth landscaping in unincorporated Cook County on Old Sutton Road, East Dundee Fire Protection District Chief Jason Parthun said. The wind carried the embers and spread the fire northeast, he said.

 
A mulch pile continued to burn Tuesday at Down To Earth Landscaping along Old Sutton Road near South Barrington. The wind carried embers from the fire started Monday and charred an estimated 30 acres at Spring Creek Forest Preserve, across the road from the landscaping company.
  A mulch pile continued to burn Tuesday at Down To Earth Landscaping along Old Sutton Road near South Barrington. The wind carried embers from the fire started Monday and charred an estimated 30 acres at Spring Creek Forest Preserve, across the road from the landscaping company. - Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

"The fire spread to neighboring house part of their property, got more things going in that property, and then moved into the brush and field and forest preserve," he said.

More than 20 agencies from northern Illinois helped in the firefighting effort, and a large command area was created with three separate operations, Parthun said. A tender shuttle brought in about 200 gallons of water and the fire was brought under control at 11:22 p.m., he said.

Firefighters ensured the fire didn't jump over Route 59 or Penny Road in South Barrington, he said.

Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District firefighters arrived about 5 p.m. and used Route 59 as a fire break, Chief Jim Kreher said. The fire in that area was under control in roughly two hours, Kreher said.

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Stacina Stagner, communications manager for Forest Preserves of Cook County, said the fire affected an estimated 30 acres at the forest preserve, across the road from the landscaping company. The Forest Preserves of Cook County totals about 70,000 acres.

"We had a crew out there this morning who walked the entire site and the fire was out. There were standing dead ash trees that were smoking and our crew cut and treated them. There was also a small area of peat that will be smoking for a while -- we are soaking that down," she said Tuesday, adding the effort is being coordinated with local fire officials.

East Dundee firefighters returned to the landscaping company Tuesday due to smoldering ashes, Kreher said.

Crews continued to put out small fires Tuesday along Route 59 near South Barrington after a mulch fire started at a nearby landscaping company Monday afternoon and spread to Forest Preserves of Cook County property.
  Crews continued to put out small fires Tuesday along Route 59 near South Barrington after a mulch fire started at a nearby landscaping company Monday afternoon and spread to Forest Preserves of Cook County property. - Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

"We are hoping to be wrapped up on site here within the next couple of hours," he said around noon. "Our largest concern is due to the heat predicted as well as the lack of rain and the winds. We are concerned but we are monitoring and everything is in good order."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Representatives of Down to Earth didn't immediately return a request for comment.

An estimated 14,070 fires take place annually from spontaneous combustion, which happens when combustible materials -- through chemical, biological or physical processes -- self-heat to a temperature high enough for ignition to take place, according to the National Park Service, which cited data from the National Fire Protection Association.

People are advised to store piles of hay, compost, mulch, manure and leaves away from buildings, and keep those piles small to allow air to circulate and heat to dissipate, the National Park Service says.

Fire agencies that assisted in the response Monday also included Beach Park, Buffalo Grove, Cary, Carpentersville, Countryside, Des Plaines, Gurnee, Hoffman Estates, Lake Villa, Libertyville, Long Grove, McHenry, Mess Canteen, Newport, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, Round Lake, Spring Grove, Wauconda, Wildland 4, and Wildland team leader.

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