An early-morning fire in Elgin could have ended in tragedy if it weren't for the help of a quick-thinking snow plow driver.
Peter Devore was out doing his rounds clearing freshly fallen snow at about 2:20 a.m. Friday when he happened to see a large orange plume. He called 911 and headed toward it and found a home ablaze in the Del Webb retirement community.
"I grabbed a shovel out of the rear of my truck. I broke the side window and yelled in there," he recalled.
Inside, the homeowner and his mother-in-law were just being alerted to smoke by their fire alarms.
Elgin Fire Department's Station 7 is just about a half of a mile away, and crews were on the scene quickly. But by the time they got there, flames were shooting in the air.
"This is a very significant incident for us," said Capt. Rob Cagann. Upon arrival of our first two units, we had fire through the roof already."
Cagann said flames were already spreading to homes on both sides.
"You see it on TV. You see it in the movies. But standing across the street and watching the flames jump over on your house, and there's nothing you can do, you're totally helpless," said neighbor Carol Toniolo.
That said, she knows she's fortunate to be alive. It turns out that Devore rousted her out of bed. Her doorbell was one of several he said he rang to alert residents about the fire.
"He's a hero. He saved our lives. I was sound asleep," she said.
Devore remains modest.
"You would have done the same thing," he advised. "You come down the street, there's flames coming out and the houses are all dark. You know there's people in them. You've got to do something."
The fire department estimates damage to the home at $300,000. As far as damage to neighboring homes, one suffered about $40,000 in damages and the other $10,000 in damages.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. No one was injured.