Metro-East News

Fire chief’s wife races to get fire truck as their home burns

A firefighting family is dealing with the loss of their own home after a fire on Friday night. The Oraville home of Vergennes Fire Chief Chad Sherman is a total loss, firefighters say. His wife, Trish, and oldest son, Hunter, are also volunteers with the Vergennes Department.

“We all practice fire safety and prevention, it’s our number one job,” said Travis Skinner, an area firefighter who knows the family. A devastating fire at a firefighter’s home is “not a common thing to happen.”

The National Fire Protection Association, whose annual Fire Prevention Week ended Saturday, says fire departments nationwide respond to nearly 360,000 house fires a year; causing $6.7 billion in damages.

No one was injured in the Oraville fire, and the cause wasn’t known Saturday, Skinner said.

The Shermans were on the property but not in the home on Friday night, a family friend said.

“It wasn’t a fire when they first saw it,” said Baylie McClanahan, the girlfriend of the Sherman’s oldest child, Hunter. Kailey, 15, and Jonathan, also 15, also saw their home burn.

Trish Sherman quickly called 911 and took the couple’s truck to retrieve a Vergennes Fire Truck, McClanahan said. Chad and Hunter did what they could while they waited for help, including retrieving some of the family’s clothing that was in a laundry room.

Dow Fire Department responded, and immediately called other departments for mutual aid before they had even arrived because of the amount of smoke they could see, said Skinner, who runs the Southern Illinois Fire Incidents page. They are among those calling for help for the family.

The Elkville, MPS Fire and Ave departments also responded.

“Oraville, where they live, is a very small town. I don’t think it has a water tower, so they called in for a lot of water tenders to do water shuttling in and out, and manpower,” Skinner said.

McClanahan said friends and neighbors are already providing assistance, including providing camping trailers for the family to live in temporarily. Some of the family’s clothing was also spared, she said, because Trish had been cleaning the house on Friday and pulled clothing into the laundry room.

“We did just get a lot of donations for Kailey, she lost everything except for the clothes she was wearing,” McClanahan said, adding that Kailey’s bedroom was among the most damaged rooms in the home.

A donation bin is at the Vergennes Fire Department, and a GoFundMe account has also been set up to assist the family’s recovery.

Mary Cooley: 618-239-2535; @MaryCooleyBND
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