Illinois fire fighter dies while battling structural blaze, US
A fire fighter died while fighting a fire early on Sunday morning, 5 May 2019, in Christopher, Illinois. 17 fire departments and six police departments assisted in battling the two-story structure fire. The Christopher Police Department said a call came in around 3h30 reporting a fire at 118 West Market Street. Christopher Fire Chief Ron Learned said a call for Mayday came an hour after the fire started for someone down inside the fire scene. "I don't know how many guys sprang to the attack," Learned said. "We were able to bring one of those people out and then the other we did not recover until later." Several local fire fighters, including Southern Illinois Fire Incidents are posting on social media "Rest in Peace Kody Vanfossan."
Christopher's Police Chief confirmed Vanfossan's dad was also inside the building fighting the fire. Vanfossan is the grandson of Christopher Mayor Gary Bartolotti. He said Vanfossan always wanted to be a fire fighter. “Since Kody was five years old,” he said, “he had a full fireman’s suit and a bag and a hat. One day we were up here and we walked over to the fire station and chief Lutz was there and he said, ‘hey, if you need backup you just call me,’”
Bartelotti knew some of the details of the fire. Apparently, Vanfossan was checking the rooms above the furniture store where the fire broke out on Market Street. He was with his father, who is also a fire fighter and one other crew member. “They went upstairs to make sure that there was no one up there at the time,” he said. While they were upstairs, Bartelotti said their oxygen tanks started beeping, prompting them to leave. The first fire fighter got out okay. Vanfossan’s father was next but apparently when he went down the stairs, the steps collapsed below his feet.
“They got him out,” he said, “He crawled out, they tried to go back in after Kody but they couldn’t get to him in time.” Bartelotti and his family remain heartbroken but believe Kody died doing what he loved. “As a mayor but as a grandfather, it’s sad,” he said, “and there’s no words to describe the way I feel but I’m proud of him.”
A final call for the fallen fire fighter could be heard across the area Sunday night to all fire and police departments, "The City of Christopher Fire Department announces the line of duty death of Christopher fire fighter Kody Vanfossan. Fire fighter Vanfossan fell in a line of duty early this morning while working a commercial building fire this morning in the City of Christopher."
It's unclear how the fire started but officials said that the building was a vacant furniture store and that no one was inside at the time.
Crews focused their attention to the top floor of the two-story building where smoke was seen coming out.
The State Fire Marshal is investigating the scene and has Market Street closed from Route 148 through Emma Street during the investigation.
Source: WSIL TV