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Authorities Investigate Reports Of ‘Fireballs’

File Photo (Photo by Steve Snowden/Getty Images)

File Photo (Photo by Steve Snowden/Getty Images)

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ELGIN, Ill. (CBS) – Police and fire department officials are investigating several fiery explosions over the past two months in a rural area of northwest suburban Elgin.

According to police reports, officials have responded at least three times to the area of Nolan Road just south of Bowes Road and Longcommon Parkway to investigate propane tanks that have been detonated — at least two creating “fireballs” in the sky, reports said.

“Bowes and Nolan is a vast, open area, and Elgin police have executed extra ATV patrols to investigate the reports,” police spokeswoman Susan Olafson said in an e-mail response to The Courier-News. “Police have also worked with the land owner to attempt to secure the area. No one has been injured in these incidents, and there has been no property damage.”

On Sept. 21, while on patrol on Bowes west of Reserve Drive, an Elgin police officer spotted a “rather large fireball” to his southwest in brush field near the Otter Creek Forest Preserve, a report said.

The officer drove out to a spot about 300 yards east of Nolan and 200 yards south of Bowes and found a brush fire in a field there, a report said. Elgin and South Elgin fire departments responded to the scene and extinguished the fire, according to reports.

A 30-gallon propane tank was found in the area — described as vacant property intended to be the site of the Fitchie Creek subdivision — and is believed to be the source of the fire. According to police reports, tire tracks were found nearby.

Elgin Fire Lt. Doug Wall said the incidents were still under investigation, but that evidence seemed to indicate they were the acts of pranksters and not a sign of something more serious.

“I think that this is just going to be some people experimenting, playing with a couple of different things,” he said. “I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the act of kids.”

Kane County sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene a short time later on Sept. 21 and advised that their agency had responded to a similar report in the same area the previous night, police reports said. That earlier call concerned a smaller, barbecue grill-size propane tank that had exploded and was out in the field, the report said.

The incident on Sept. 20 had been reported just after 11 p.m. when a resident living nearby called in a “fireball” in the sky, reports said.

On Oct. 8, at about 9:25 p.m., Elgin police responded to the same area off Nolan Road regarding a report of hearing several shots fired, police reports said.

Officers in the area were advised that several people had called in to report numerous large explosions somewhere between Bowes and Hopps roads west of Randall Road, a police report said. Two officers in the area then went on foot to check some all-terrain vehicle trails near 9N364 Nolan Road, according to reports.

They discovered that a set of large rocks that had been used to block a dead-end street there had been moved and a chain with a “no trespassing” sign was lying on the ground, reports said.

On the southwest corner of Nolan and Bowes roads, the officers found a gray LPG compressed gas tank on the ground, reports said. The tank was charred on the top near the nozzles. No holes were found on the tank’s exterior.

Elgin firefighters responded to the area along with members of the Kane County bomb squad.

The bomb squad detonated what it referred to in police reports as a “tank bomb” and made it safe to transport, police reports said. The propane tank was a 30-gallon container with the words “United Propane and Energy Company” printed on the side, police reports said.

Police and fire department officials do not know how or why the tanks were detonated, police reports said.

Residents in the area of the explosions told police on Oct. 8 that they heard the voices of two males in an ATV driving around the area just before the explosions, reports said.

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