Two blazes blamed on downed power lines

McHENRY – Fire started by arcing power lines in the first winter storm of the season Thursday night destroyed a sports bar in a historical downtown building.

A second fire in a vacant house in an unincorporated area near McHenry also was blamed on power lines downed in the storm.

Crews were called to Windy City Wings, 1266 N. Green St., about 9 p.m. for a report of flames coming from the business, said Mike Majercik, fire battalion chief for McHenry Township Fire Protection District.

Three families who lived in apartments above the sports bar were displaced by the fire and lost all of their belongings. The families are staying with relatives or friends.

A donation event for the families is scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon today at Chauncey H. Duker School, 3711 W. Kane Ave.

No injuries were reported in the fire, which by 10:30 p.m. went to a second call for help from other fire departments from as far away as Algonquin and Woodstock.

“It was like a fireworks show,” Majercik said. “While ComEd was shutting off the power, the fire extended into the building. The high winds just fed the fire and made it hard to get under control.”

The blaze spread quickly through the wooden buidling, but the adjoining business was saved, he said.

“It looked like someone was [shooting] off fireworks,” said Roger Phelps, who lives near the two-story wooden frame building at Route 120 and Green Street. The roads were closed until 6 a.m. Friday.

Ron Theodore, 43, of McHenry, watched on Green Street as crews worked. “It’s a historic building that will be lost ... forever,” he said. “It’s a sad thing to see.”

It was the third fire at the building over the years, Majercik said.

The building once was the Central Opera House, McHenry’s first theater. According to the McHenry County Historical Society, the opera house opened Jan. 2, 1905. It featured two dressing rooms, a 21-by-16-foot stage, restrooms and a gallery.

By 1925, the building was converted into offices and a hall suitable for lodges. The main hall at that time was used by the Knights of Columbus, Daughters of America and Riverview Camp, said Kurt Begalka, historical society administrator.

Students and staff from Edgebrook Elementary School and Duker School are hosting today’s funderaiser for the displaces families, all of whom have children in McHenry School District 15.

By Friday afternoon, the distict said it already had received more than $2,000 in monetary donations, plus toys, coats and other items for the victims. The displaced children range in age from 18 months old to a 10 years old.

“All the schools have come together to do everything we can to help these families,” said Michelle Reinhardt, principal at Edgebrook. “Everybody coming together has just been an amazing sight.”

Earlier Friday – about 6:30 p.m. — firefighters were called to an vacant house in the 3000 block of South Pool Street in an unincorporated area near McHenry for a report of downed power lines.

Firefighters found a utility pole and arcing wires against the top of the home, which caused the attic to catch fire, Majercik said. Crews put out the fire quickly and limited damage to the attic, he said.

“Two fires caused by downed power lines is unheard of,” Majercik said. It’s strange to have something like this, where both fires were a direct result of the high winds.”

• Reporter Joe Bustos contributed to this report

How to help

Chauncey H. Duker School will collect donations for the families displaced by the fire from 10 a.m. to noon today the school parking lot, 3711 W. Kane Ave.

Family No. 1: Men’s size medium shirts, pants size 32/32, shoes 8 1/2 or 9; women’s medium or large tops, pants size 10; 7-year-old boy, size 7/8 pants and shirts, shoe size 1.

Family No. 2: Men’s size medium shirts, pants 32/30, shoes 8 or 8 1/2; women’s medium tops, pants 3/4, shoe size 6 1/2; 7-year-old boy size 7/8 in pants and shirts, shoe size 1; 6-year-old girl size 6 in pants and tops, shoe size 12; 1-year-old girl size 18 months, shoe size 3.

Family No. 3: Men’s size extra large in tops; women’s size large; one 10-year-old girl size 10/12; one 4-year-old girl, size 4/6X.

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