No injuries after Thursday afternoon car fire at Casey’s in Hillcrest

There were no injuries after a car fire on Thursday afternoon at the Casey’s General Store in Hillcrest, Rochelle Fire Department Chief Dave Sawlsville said.

Car a total loss, minor damage to building due to blaze

ROCHELLE — There were no injuries after a car fire on Thursday afternoon at the Casey’s General Store in Hillcrest, Rochelle Fire Department Chief Dave Sawlsville said. 

Fire crews were dispatched to the business at 215 Powers Road just before 3 p.m. for the report of a car fire. First responders arrived on scene to find that the fire had spread from the front of a 2018 Chrysler Pacifica to its passenger compartment. The car was parked about four feet from the building, Sawlsville said. 

“The owners had left it running while they ran in and they came back out and it was smoking under the hood,” Sawlsville said. “And then shortly thereafter they could see flames under the hood and called 911. The car was a total loss. The building sustained minor damage and the fire melted some of the brick veneer off the front of it. There was smoke damage inside the building, but the fire never got into the building.”

Casey’s General Store employees utilized the stop button on the gas pumps to prevent flow to the pumps when the fire started. They also attempted to put out the flame with fire extinguishers but were unable to get it fully extinguished, Sawlsville said. Fire crews evacuated the building upon arrival. 

Firefighters faced a number of hazards with the Thursday car fire.  

“It's at a gas station, so that obviously adds a hazard,” Sawlsville said. “And with newer cars, once the fire is out there is always the danger of the airbags still deploying while you're inside trying to put out hot spots. Shock-absorbing bumpers are filled with hydraulic fluid and when they get hot, they explode. We've seen those fly 50 feet before. When we approach car fires we're in full turnout gear because of all of those different hazards. And various parts on cars are made of magnesium, which burns very hot and reacts with water. There are all kinds of hazards with vehicle fires. And cars today are made of mostly plastic and petroleum products, so we have to protect our respiratory tracts with self-contained breathing apparatuses.”

Responding departments with Rochelle Fire included the Ogle-Lee Fire Protection District stations of Hillcrest, Flagg Center and Steward along with the Ogle County Sheriff’s Office. 

Sawlsville said the awning around the building having a place for smoke and heat to escape at the top saved the building from a lot more potential damage. The chief estimated the building sustained $3,000-5,000 in damage and the car was a total loss with value estimated at about $20,000. 

The cause of the fire was likely electrical in nature, Sawlsville said. 

“In those Chrysler Pacificas, everything on them is electric,” Sawlsville said, “It was probably caused by an electrical issue. The fire didn't start back by the gas tank or in the motor. It started off to the passenger side of the motor.”

Casey’s General Store was closed for about an hour due to the fire. 

“We set some fans up to clear some smoke out of the building and they were advised to dispose of any unsealed food,” Sawlsville said. “It was just one of those crazy things. I don't necessarily think anyone was doing anything wrong. They hadn't noticed any mechanical difficulty or problems with the car beforehand.”