5/8/2013 11:09:00 AM Investigation of suspicious fires continues Firefighter barely escapes serious injury at house blaze.
LaMotte Township firefighters tear tin from the walls of the Tohill power station, while Flat Rock personnel use the hose to water down the nearly century-old stationary engine inside. Minutes later LaMotte Township Fire Department was called to a house fire near Heathsville. Both fires are suspicious and under investigation. (Tom Compton photo)
Mysterious fires continue to plague the Palestine-Flat Rock area.
At 6:14 p.m. Monday, the Flat Rock Fire Department was called to a structure fire at the Tohill powerhouse on County Road 1500E, about one-half mile north of 450N. LaMotte Township Fire Department was called for mutual aid.
While Flat Rock and LaMotte Township firefighters were pulling tin from the powerhouse to access remaining hot spots, a second alarm was sounded for a second fire near Heathsville. At 6:42 p.m. LaMotte Township firefighters had to leave the Tohill fire to rush to a house fire in the 400 block of 2000E. Robinson Fire Department was called for mutual aid.
The house, owned by Robert Birkofer, Robinson, is a recreational house and was not occupied at the time of the fire.
The Tohill power station is one of the few remaining flywheel-stationary engine oil pumping operations in the country. It had been repaired after a fire in 2008.
At this time no cause has been given for either fire, and the Illinois State Fire Marshal's office has been called in to investigate.
Monday night's fires, along with a string of back-to-back mysterious fires in abandoned houses and old barns, continue to be investigated by the Crawford County Sheriff's Department and fire marshal's offices.
Damage from these fires has not been limited to the structures. Fire trucks and other equipment have suffered several thousand dollars worth of damage, and while fighting the house fire Monday night a LaMotte Township fireman barely escaped injury when a second-floor balcony collapsed under him.
Brad White was trying to access the second floor of the house through an overhanging balcony when it pulled away from the house. White was able to ride it down, but could have been severely injured.
Anyone with information about these fires or other fires should contact the Crawford County Sheriff's Department at 546-1515.