If the Lynch family vacation trip had gone according to plan Saturday, their Libertyville-area barn would probably be a pile of ashes right now.
Instead, what started out as a canceled vacation became a blessing in disguise
because it meant that the family's young twins were home to save the barn and the baby sheep inside from an early-morning fire.
"Their quick thinking worked out well. Otherwise we'd still be out there," said Libertyville Fire Department Assistant Chief Michael Cloe on Saturday afternoon.
Nine-year-old twins Max and Grace Lynch discovered the fire - most likely caused by a heat lamp used to warm some newborn baby sheep - when Max convinced his sister to join him outside for some playtime around 8 a.m. Saturday. They were only home because the family's 5-year-old, Charlotte, came down with an unexpected fever that morning. Otherwise, the family would have been on the road by 5 a.m. Her illness canceled those plans, said mom Joan Lynch.
"I like playing outside, so I went outside," said Max. That's when he saw smoke coming from the barn.
"And they said on the weather it's supposed to snow today. So I thought it was just (steam)," Max added. But "Grace came outside and said it was fire."
The two opened the barn door and had plans of dousing any fire with a bucket, but quickly found the smoke-filled interior too dark and difficult to navigate. So they ran to get dad, Jeff Lynch, who threw on his work clothes and ran outside while mom called 911.
At that point, said Max and Grace, the fire was about the size of two campfires, and while dad got a hose, Max held open the door to clear the smoke while Grace got the sheep out.
"Our dad was stomping the fire while spraying it," said Grace. "I was grabbing baby sheep and putting them outside, coughing, and then running inside and doing the same routine."
Jeff Lynch had the fire extinguished by the time firefighters arrived at the farm in unincorporated Lake County on Casey Road near Libertyville. There was a little bit of damage to the walls because the fire had begun to spread to them from the ignited hay.
Among the firefighters who arrived, Grace and Max found a familiar face: Firefighter Russ "Bart" Bartholomew, the same firefighter who taught them at Adler Park School how to react to a fire.
"We'll probably send them a certificate" in recognition for following those directions, said Cloe."They definitely saved it."