Former lineman on Bears' Super Bowl champions loses Liberty home in overnight fire

This is what remains of the home of Mark and Liza Bortz of rural Liberty, which was destroyed by fire early Wednesday morning. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Mar. 6, 2013 9:24 am Updated: Nov. 28, 2014 8:19 pm
(H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

LIBERTY, Ill. — Mark Bortz, a starting offensive lineman for the 1985 Chicago Bears team that won Super Bowl XX, and his wife Liza of rural Liberty lost their home and its contents in a major house fire about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The house, southeast of Liberty at 2649 North 725th Place, was fully engulfed in flames when volunteer firefighters from the Liberty Fire Department arrived on the scene.

Drifting snow prevented firefighters from getting two fire engines to the scene. Both vehicles became stuck in the snow.

"The roads had drifted shut. They were in pretty bad shape," Fire Chief Don Loos said. "We couldn't get our fire engines there, so we had to fight it with our brush trucks."

A brush truck is a four-wheel-drive pickup equipped with a 300-gallon tank and pump. It's normally used to put out brush fires.

Loos said firefighters could do nothing to save the Bortz's two-story wood-frame farmhouse, which was more than 100 years old.

"On our arrival, the house was fully engulfed and everyone was out. So we concentrated our efforts with the brush trucks on saving the barns and the out buildings," Loos said. "They lost pretty much everything in the house."

No one was injured. Loos said the Bortzes were awakened by the sound of smoke alarms and managed to get out of the house safely.

Loos said the cause of the fire was not immediately known. He said a representative from the state fire marshal's office was slated to inspect the fire scene in late morning or early afternoon.

"At this time we don't consider it suspicious," Loos said. "The house is a total loss."

Loos said the Bortzes own another house, so "they've got a place stay." He said the American Red Cross was called in to see if the couple needed any assistance.

Firefighters remained on the scene until about 7:30 a.m. and then retrieved their snowbound firetrucks. Loos said the McKee Township road commissioner "opened up the road for us and pulled us out."

Loos said firefighters battled cold, windy conditions during the night. He said the snow on the ground likely kept the fire from spreading. "So the snow hindered us and helped us as well," he said.

Bortz, a University of Iowa graduate, was a fixture on the offensive line for the Bears for 12 seasons, and he was a two-time Pro Bowler. A hunting enthusiast, Bortz has been living in rural Adams County for several years.


(H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)


Mark Bortz (62), shown blocking for Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton i34) in this 1984 photo, and his wife lost their Liberty home and its contents in an overnight fire Wednesday. (AP Photo)


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