PANA — A man was treated for smoke inhalation and a pet dog was saved as the Pana Fire Department ushered out the old year and welcomed the new one by dealing with two devastating house fires.

The first happened at 11:23 p.m. Saturday when firefighters were called to a two-story home at 205 N. Poplar St. Fire Chief Rod Bland said the family living there had already gotten out, but one 28-year-old man was hospitalized in Decatur for smoke inhalation.

“I checked with the man’s dad today (Tuesday), and he was still in hospital but doing better,” Bland said.

Bland said the fire appeared to be an accident, with a candle starting the blaze, which sent flames billowing from second-story windows. Having been told there was a pet dog inside, Bland sent in a rescue team that found the terrified animal cowering under a bed in a downstairs room.

“But apart from some black soot on his back, the dog was all right,” Bland said. “The fire had flashed over that room, but we think the bed blankets hanging down helped protect the dog; and it's another proof that staying low in a fire really helps.”

Bland said the the house was a total loss.

Fire also destroyed another two-story Pana home at 1:42 a.m. Monday at 502 S. Sheridan St. Bland said two adults and five children were out when the blaze started and crews arrived to find the house engulfed. The firefighters managed to stop the fire from spreading to other homes just feet away.

Bland said the family had been trying to heat with space heaters and dealing with electrical problems such as blown fuses. The chief said he suspects an electrical overload sparked the fire.

“If you have fuses blowin’ or breakers tripping, there is a reason for it,” he said.

He said two fire hydrants near the house were inoperative, and he had to call in aid from fire departments in Tower Hill, Oconee, Owaneco and Nokomis, who supplied tanker trucks to help ferry water.

Air temperatures of below freezing made for brutal conditions, he said. Hoses froze solid as soon as they weren’t being used, and firefighters using charged lines had to brace themselves as the force of the water skidded them backward on ice-slicked roads.

“Using a fire hose and standing on ice is quite a ride,” Bland said.

And there could have been yet another house fire Monday night at 205 W. Fourth St. when a homeowner called after smelling smoke. Firefighters traced it to a pile of overheated clothes from a faulty dryer.

“We took the pile outside and pulled it apart and those clothes just lit up on fire when the air hit them,” Bland said.

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Staff Writer

Courts and public safety reporter for the Herald & Review.

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