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'Your heart just goes out to them'

Family displaced by Saturday house fire

Minooka Firefighter Ed Melant works with fellow Morris firefighters on the roof of a structure at 1034 Liberty Street, which was deemed uninhabitable following a fire Saturday morning.
Minooka Firefighter Ed Melant works with fellow Morris firefighters on the roof of a structure at 1034 Liberty Street, which was deemed uninhabitable following a fire Saturday morning.

A Saturday morning fire displaced a Morris family and caused about $100,000 in damage to their residence, according to Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District officials.

Chief Tracey Steffes said that, at 7:35 a.m., the call came in to the Grundy County Consolidated 911 Center that there was a structure fire at 1034 Liberty Street. He said the fire appeared to have originated in the attic area.  

"It was an accidental fire, caused by electrical (malfunction)," Steffes said.

Steffes said the family was present during the fire, however no injuries were reported. The total damage to the home was estimated at about $100,000.

According to Steffes, Morris Police were first to arrive on scene, and officers reported fire and smoke in the roof area of the structure. Minooka and Coal City fire protection districts provided mutual aid.

Morris Fire Protection and Ambulance District crews arrived within three minutes of the call and firefighters were confronted by heavy smoke in the roof area. Fire crews entered the building and attacked the fire in the attic area.

The fire was brought under control in about 30 minutes, Steffes said. Firefighters performed extensive overhaul of the second floor and the roof and attic area. On Monday, the home was boarded up and marked off by yellow safety tape.

Steffes said it was not immediately clear how many people lived in the home. Steve Larson, Morris fire department chaplain and pastor of First Baptist Church of Morris, said about five people, including three children, appeared to have been living there, however, that number was unconfirmed.

Steffes said the timing of the fire, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, is unfortunate.

"I don't know if there is a good time to have a fire, but over the holidays (is) less of a good time," he said.

Steffes said the department has made arrangements to help the displaced family through Larson.

Larson said, at this point, the church has provided assistance through a fund set up for community emergencies. The funds are raised through a special monthly offering. The family will be able to use the money, given in the form of a Walmart gift card, to buy food, replace presents, and buy some more clothing.

Additionally, he said the fire department has put the family in contact with the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store for clothing.

Larson said the church's fund has been set up for situations like the fire.

"In a situation like this, when it's a fire and a family is completely put out of their home (and only have what they've walked out with), that's an unusual situation and that fund is really what we like to use," he said.

He said, for now, the family has a network of family members in the area who have offered a place to stay. He added any assistance from community members would also be appreciated.

"We would absolutely welcome that in any way," he said.

Anyone wanting to help can contact the church at (815) 942-0812.

He said he arrived on the scene after the fire had been put out and met with the family.

"They were sitting on the curb, watching the board-up company (secure the home)," he said. "Your heart just goes out to them."

One moment he said was particularly difficult was seeing the realization of the fire set in for one of the children.

"All of a sudden, it just hits her that her Christmas presents were gone," he said. "She just broke down. You just feel bad for her ... this time of year is tough."

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