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Firefighters battle 3 structure fires on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day in Waukegan

Fire crews extinguish a building fire on South Genesee Street in Waukegan Friday morning. | Photo: Max Weingardt.

Firefighters battled three separate fires in the bitter cold on Christmas Eve and Christmas in Waukegan, which included a barbeque restaurant, an abandoned building and a home.

The Waukegan Fire Department responded around 1:30 a.m. Thursday to Hillary’s Bar-BQ, 2021 North Lewis Avenue, for a report of a structure fire.

Waukegan Fire Department Fire Marshal Steven Lenzi said firefighters arrived and found heavy fire in the BBQ pit extending into the chimney and the rest of the building.

“Restaurant staff was working overnight preparing their well-loved barbeque for a planned busy Christmas Eve when the fire started,” Lenzi said.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze, which resulted in approximately $50,000 in damage.

“[It] will keep the very popular local BBQ restaurant closed during the holidays,” Lenzi said, adding that there were no injuries reported.

Later in the day, firefighters responded to a structure fire at a single-family residence in the 2100 block of 9th Parkway on Waukegan’s southwest side.

Fire crews extinguish a building fire on South Genesee Street in Waukegan Friday morning. | Photo: Max Weingardt.

The fire was reported just after 7:45 p.m. and the first arriving firefighters found heavy flames in an attached single car garage extending into a breezeway and the residence.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, confining it primarily to the garage, Lenzi said. The fire displaced the two residents and their dog. Emergency assistance was provided by the American Red Cross.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation and damage was estimated at $60,000. One firefighter sustained an injury while slipping on ice.

Firefighters were called around 5 a.m. Christmas Day to 18 South Genesee Street in Waukegan’s downtown district for a structure fire.

Lenzi said that fire crews arrived and found heavy flames showing from a building that was being demolished.

“The former three-story building was in the process of being razed as part of a City of Waukegan effort to eliminate problematic vacant structures throughout the City,” Lenzi said.

The partially demolished structure made fighting the fire difficult, creating many hidden areas that required a heavy excavator to provide access for firefighters to extinguish the blaze.

Firefighters dealt with below-zero wind chills and very icy conditions while fighting the fire, which is still under investigation.

Water damage from this fire also forced the evacuation of a two-story mixed-use building to the south.

Four families totaling 12 people were displaced from the building. The American Red Cross assisted them with emergency assistance.

No injuries were reported as approximately 50 firefighters from Waukegan and 10 other area fire departments spent over six hours fighting the blaze.