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House fire displaces VG family

Glen Van Dyke holds his son Thaddius, while speaking with his wife Jan Van Dyke on the porch of their daughter’s house. Photo by Dominik Stallings.

By Dominik Stallings
The Villa Grove Fire Department was called to a single-family house fire on the morning of Aug. 26, at 24 Hancock Dr. in Villa Grove. Chuck Black, Villa Grove fire chief, said no one was injured in the fire, but the house and most of the belongings inside are a complete loss. The Van Dyke family lived in the house for the last three years.

“I feel for the family,” said Black.

Black said the fire started in a bedroom and the main body of the fire was brought under control quickly. They were assisted by the Tuscola Fire department, Camargo Countryside Fire Protection District and Broadlands-Longview Fire Protection District. The cause of the fire is undetermined.

Glen and Jan Van Dyke and their four children and grandchildren now stay with their daughter, Nikki Van Dyke until they can find a new home.

The fire started in the morning while most of the family was out of the house. Jan stayed with her year-old son, Thaddius, and her 13-year-old son Wyatt. Jan said that everyone was outside on the porch, waiting to go on a walk before they found the fire inside. She said Wyatt left for the bathroom but he came back and said he could smell smoke inside. Jan thought It could be a neighbor cooking some BBQ outside but checked inside to be sure. She found smoke coming out of the room where her daughter and grandson, Sam, and John, were staying. Wyatt helped his mother out of the house and calmed her down during the emergency.

“The window popped right after we left the porch and walked onto our neighbor’s lawn,” said Jan. “If it wasn’t for my son, I wouldn’t have gotten out as quick.”

Glen remembered a drawing of an old steam engine from his brother Everett. Even though a lot of clothes, memories, and pictures were burnt, Glen said he tries not to be too sad about it,  “Can I change it? No — I don’t worry about things I can’t change. I worry about the things that I can change,”

The Van Dykes said they appreciated the help they received so far.

“The firemen were excellent,” said Jan, “We appreciate everything they did.”

The family received help from the American Red Cross after the fire. Jan said they gave them financial assistance with a Walmart moneycard. The money is meant to supply the family with food, clothing and other basic needs items for a few days. The American Red Cross isn’t the only organization that has reached out to help the family.

One of the children goes to the Humboldt Treatment and Learning Center. The center is a school for children with behavioral issues; they provide specialized support for children and smaller class sizes for the kids. The nurse, Christina Couch, said the school helped the family as soon as they heard about the fire. Humboldt Treatment and Learning Center reached out to the Crossover Church and the Salvation Army in Mattoon for support. Couch said both the church and Salvation Army provided the family with clothing and clothing vouchers, and other basic household items.

The school staff pooled donations and presented them to the family on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

“It’s just what we do as a school. We consider ourselves a family and this family is a part of our family.”

In a press release, the American Red Cross writes that volunteers helped 23 people who were affected by house fires in southern-central Illinois in the past week. Home fires are the most frequent disaster and claim seven lives every day in the U.S. Working smoke alarms can cut the risk of death in a home fire by 50 percent. To help protect your household, test your smoke alarms each month and practice your escape plan until everyone can get out in less than two minutes.

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