Firefighters respond to a structure fire in the 1800 block of 21st Street in Zion Saturday afternoon. | Photo: Willie Gillespie (@wgweather)

Fire officials believe a minivan and garage that caught fire in Zion was caused by someone living in the vehicle that improperly used heating elements and overloaded extension cords.

Zion Fire and Rescue Department Battalion Chief Jason Messick said crews received a call around 1:18 p.m. Saturday for a structure fire in the 1800 block of 21st Street in Zion.

Firefighters arrived to find a minivan next to a detached garage and both were fully involved in flames. Heavy smoke conditions were present.

Crews deployed two hose lines to extinguish both the minivan and the garage.

Messick said there was an initial concern that was someone may have been inside the minivan after bystanders reported the owner of the vehicle had been using it as a residence.

Firefighters respond to a structure fire in the 1800 block of 21st Street in Zion Saturday afternoon. | Photo: Willie Gillespie (@wgweather)

Firefighters used a thermal imaging camera to determine that no one was inside the vehicle.

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The alley that provided access to the garage was lined with overhead power lines and ComEd was notified, Messick said.

The cold weather resulted in icy conditions around the scene for firefighting operations. A salt truck from Zion Public Works was called to assist.

No civilian or firefighter injuries were reported.

The fire was found to have started in or around the minivan, which then caught the garage on fire.

Improper use of heating elements and overloading of extension cords may have played a role in the blaze, Messick said.

Firefighters respond to a structure fire in the 1800 block of 21st Street in Zion Saturday afternoon. | Photo: Willie Gillespie (@wgweather)

“Extension cords are rated based on the amperage they can safely carry and the wattage they can handle. Please read the safety warnings before using these devices to power anything in your home. They should not be used to permanently provide power to most household items,” Messick said.

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“Space heaters should only be used when people are present and should have safety features that include timed or automatic shutoffs. Vehicles should not be considered a permanent residence,” he added.

Most municipalities have resources to help those in times of need, Messick said. In the City of Zion, the Zion Township Office can be contacted for help by calling 847-872-2811.

The exact cause of the fire remains undetermined. Both the minivan and the garage were considered total losses due to the fire.

Approximately $85,000 in damage was caused to the minivan and garage.

Winthrop Harbor, Newport, Pleasant Prairie and Gurnee fire departments assisted at the scene while North Chicago and Libertyville covered calls in Zion