Ron Avakian was mowing his lawn when he noticed smoke billowing from the roof of his neighbor’s house across the street.
With the help of another neighbor in the 5600 block of Meadow Hill Lane, Avakian used a piece of wood to smash the windows of the burning house.
“We broke the window to see if there was anybody inside,” said the 60-year-old neighbor, who has been living across the street since 1988. “There was nobody inside.”
By 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, when fire crews shut off the water flowing through their hoses, the fire had destroyed the Pistakee Highlands home and killed two dogs inside.
Homeowner Hollyann Witt, 71, sat in folding chair and watched firefighters douse the charred remains of her home.
“I’m numb,” Witt said. “This is like something else.”
They picked through blackened possessions, many of which ended up in crude piles on the lawn. One firefighter pulled a sleek Squier Stratocaster guitar from the wreckage, and brought her the instrument – one belonging to her 76-year-old husband, Al.
Witt held the guitar in her hands. In the background, crews knocked around the debris of her house to make sure the flames all had gone out.
About 11 a.m. Tuesday, Witt took her husband to the emergency room at Centegra Hospital – McHenry. He had been having neck issues and could not rotate his head without unbearable pain.
While the couple was at the hospital, their neighbors scrambled.
They called 911. They made sure the house was clear. They tugged the couple’s boat from the driveway to make sure the fire did not claim it, too.
“This is a truly great neighborhood,” Witt said. Tears welled in her eyes.
The McHenry Township Fire Protection District rolled into the Pistakee Highlands neighborhood about noon. When they arrived, firefighters found flames shooting from the roof.
The fire drew a county-spanning response, including agencies from Fox Lake, Spring Grove, Wauconda, Wonder Lake, Richmond, Woodstock, Crystal Lake and Nunda Rural Fire Protection District.
“They initiated a quick, aggressive attack through the interior and exterior at the same time,” McHenry Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Kevin Sears said.
The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
Witt could not think of anything that could have sparked the inferno that destroyed her home and killed her dogs: A 12-year-old Italian greyhound named Sasha and a 13-year-old Papillon named Buffy.
The couple has homeowners’ insurance.
They will live in the home of their 47-year-old daughter, Kimi Paprocki, until they figure out their living situation.