By RICK HAYES firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — A rural Mt. Vernon family lost their home and Christmas gifts, following an overnight fire.
Jefferson Fire Protection District responded to the fire at 15541 Lynchberg Road at 12:49 a.m. Wednesday. The first group of firefighters arrived on the scene at 12:54 a.m., according to Captain Ryan Clinton, but saw fire and smoke from Continental Tire of the Americas, about one mile southwest of the residence.
“When we arrived on the scene, we saw heavy fire conditions and a vehicle in the garage,” Clinton said. “We consider the garage to be a total loss; the house had major fire and smoke damage.” The family’s mini-van and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle were destroyed in the fire.
The home is owned by Dana Barnum, who along with her four children ranging in ages from 3 to 16, were able to escape the fire without injury. One of the children reportedly escaped wearing only his underwear, according to fire personnel. The family went to a nearby neighbor’s house when firemen arrived.
Clinton said Barnum said she woke up to a “loud popping noise” in the garage, and then escaped the residence with her children, two boys and two girls.
Clinton said the first group of five firefighters battled the blaze until more personnel arrived — although two tankers were caught by a train near CTA on Illinois 142.. In all, JFPD had seven trucks and 14 personnel on the scene. Mt. Vernon provided one engine and four personnel, Webber Fire Protection District provided an engine and tanker and six personnel. Woodlawn Fire Department was called for mutual aid assistance to cover the South 10th Street station.
Fire personnel got the fire under control at 1:52 a.m., although the scene was not cleared until 4:40 a.m.
“We used about 20,000 gallons of water. It was a total team effort,” said Clinton, adding there were enough personnel available to rotate crews. He added Belle Rive Water Department and Tri-County Electric responded quickly to the residence.
“We were able to salvage a lot of clothing, photographs and jewelry, although two of the rooms in the house were a total loss,” Clinton said. A dresser was on the porch of the residence at daylight.
Many of the family’s Christmas gifts were destroyed in the fire, although firemen were able to salvage a box of gifts from the attic.
“It will be a happy holiday for them,” said Barnum’s sister, Candace McCoy, who said the family’s needs are still being assessed, although clothing seems to be the most immediate need. People who want to make clothing donations to the family may contact McCoy at 316-4398 or visit her Facebook page. Gift card contributions are also being organized at Second Baptist Church, according to pastor, the Rev. Jim Duncan. A Disaster Action Team from the St. Louis chapter of the American Red Cross is also assisting the family.
“It’s really hard to have a fire at this time of the year, it really hits you hard,” said JFPD Chief Mike Huntman.
The family is staying with family and friends temporarily.