You probably thought the only danger from puffy cottonwood seeds drifting in thick clouds as they do this time of year was a nasty allergy attack. Not so.
Firefighters in Normal said someone flicked a cigarette onto a carpet of cottonwood fluff Thursday afternoon. The seeds acted like tinder, according to the fire department. Hot air from the fires caused the light seeds to lift off and float across the yards at 1703 and 1705 Taft, igniting several small patches of flame.
And in a thicker batch of fluff caught and piled up by landscaping near the house at 1703 Taft, one ember grew to scorch the corner of the home and invade the siding and exterior wall.
Firefighters said neighbors used a garden hose and fire extinguishers to put out the flames. Firefighters used thermal imaging equipment to make sure the homes were safe.
There is no burning ban in effect, though the weather has been very dry.
“This fire seems very strange, but actually it’s a very good reminder of how fast dry vegetation burns and how quickly the wind can spread a fire,” said Normal Fire spokesperson Matt Swaney. “If you have a cottonwood tree that is giving off large amounts of fluff, it would be a good idea to take a garden hose and saturate the accumulated fluff to keep it from rapidly combusting should it come in contact with heat or fire.”
He said it was an eye-opening experience.
“It doesn’t take but a few seconds for an outdoor fire to spread and turn into something like what we had here today. Thankfully no one was injured, and the property damage was minimal,” said Swaney.
The fire department urged caution in using fire outdoors at present.
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