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MATTOON -- Firefighters were mindful of the gusting winds on Thursday in Mattoon as they were dispatched that afternoon to a garage fire along DeWitt Avenue.

Shift Captain Sean Junge with the Mattoon Fire Department said they were fortunate that the fire was within the engine compartment of a pickup truck inside a detached garage, and that the property owner quickly reported the fire.

Junge said firefighters were able to use handheld extinguishers to douse the fire and prevent it from spreading to the rest of the truck and to the garage. No injuries were reported regarding the fire, which occurred at approximately 3:15 p.m. at 60 DeWitt Ave.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for Coles County until 10 p.m. Thursday, according to the NWS station at Coles County Memorial Airport. There were sustained winds Thursday afternoon of about 20-28 mph and the highest gust recorded was 52 mph.

"During our shift briefing (Thursday) morning, we discussed the weather. The weather was definitely a topic of conversation. It can do some things as far as hindering fire suppression efforts," Junge said, adding that gusting winds can interfere with fire hose water and fan flames. "It definitely makes are jobs a little bit tougher." 

Junge said the fire department had received no reports of wind-related damage as of late afternoon Thursday. The department reported that the Rent-A-Center's outdoor sign was damaged earlier Thursday by an apparent electrical fire. The outdoor sign at Big Lots was damaged by gusting winds that day. 

Regarding the garage fire on DeWitt, firefighters cleared the scene by 3:41 p.m. Police briefly blocked traffic on DeWitt between North First Division and North Second Division streets while fire trucks were positioned on the road to access the garage.

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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