At least two large brush fires burned Tuesday as weather experts issued a Red Flag Warning of elevated fire risk due to high winds and dry air.
In south suburban Alsip, firefighters responded to two massive plumes of black smoke that were spotted shortly after 11 a.m. in the 3800-block of 124th Place. Multiple fires were spotted along the railroad tracks, which eventually merged into one long fire that spanned nearly two miles and involved multiple homes and businesses.
"We found approximately five different incidents going on at the same time around the tracks that went from 127th Street on the south all the way to approximately 116th Street on the North. So almost about two miles of distance, altogether," said Alsip Fire Chief Thomas Styczynski.
A voluntary evacuation order was issued among Joalyce Drive, which backs up to the prairie path where the fire burned, but it was lifted when the fire was struck out shortly before 4 p.m.
The fire burned several businesses and damaged cars as well.
"The license plate is melted off," said Demetria Garder.
Garner's car was burned in the fire along with two others in the same parking lot.
"When I came downstairs, smoke was everywhere. Debris was flying everywhere and the firefighters was running. They were trying to put the flames out on my car, and put the flames out on this car," she said.
Her car was parked near the train tracks. Fire officials believe sparks from the passing trains on the tracks are what sparked the brush fires.
Students at Prairie Junior High School and Stoney Creek Junior High School were also told to shelter in place before the fire was out.
Officials said firefighter from 15 to 20 area fire departments responded to the blaze, and remain on the scene to monitor for hot spots and ensure the fire remains out on a windy, dry day.
A second fire burned for hours in Pembroke Township in Kankakee County, scorching through buildings.
"With our wind conditions the way that they are, plus the temperature as well as the humidity they played the perfect," Styczynski said.
Stynczynski said brush fires are common for the area, but he hadn't seen anything this bad in 20 years.
WATCH: What is a Red Flag Warning?
FEELS LIKE SUMMER
Otherwise, Tuesday was another beautiful day.
Temperatures were in the low 80s and there was plenty of sunshine. Still, it was windy with gusts climbing to between 25 mph and 30 mph.
Monday also reached 80 degrees, but Tuesday is on track to be the warmest day of 2018 in the Chicago area.
The air is very dry. Relative humidity has dropped to low levels, which has elevated fire risks due to high winds and dry vegetation. As a result, a Red Flag Warning was in effect until 7 p.m.
Rain chances increase for the area Tuesday night through Friday. This afternoon, isolated showers could happen in DeKalb and LaSalle, but most of the Chicago area will be dry.
Late Wednesday and into Thursday morning, a line of thunderstorms, which could be severe, will move through the area. A second line of storms is expected to come through Thursday and into Friday morning, with a slight risk of being severe.