Metro-East News

Elderly couple killed in Highland house fire are identified

Highland Fire Kills Two

An elderly couple were killed in a house fire Sunday in their Highland home, the morning after attending a family wedding.
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An elderly couple were killed in a house fire Sunday in their Highland home, the morning after attending a family wedding.

An elderly couple were pulled from a burning house in Highland on Sunday morning, but too late to save them from the fire that destroyed their home.

The victims were identified as Jack and Shirley Cygan, who lived in the 700 block of Pike Drive East in Highland. Police, paramedics and firefighters responded, but the residence was fully involved in flame upon their arrival, according to Highland Police.

Guestbook: Jack and Shirley Cygan

Fire Chief Rick Bloemker said the arriving firefighters quickly realized there were people inside the house and pulled them out, but both were declared dead at the scene. The victims were found in their pajamas near the front door, Bloemker said.

Neighbors said the Cygans were a friendly couple strongly devoted to their Catholic faith and active in their home parish of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Highland.

“They are excellent people, very religious,” said Linda Wahl, who lives next door. “They were amazing, truly loved by everyone. They touched so many lives with the church.”

They were amazing, truly loved by everyone.

Linda Wahl, neighbor

Wahl said the police woke her family this morning, warning them that the fire might spread to their house and they would have to be evacuated. Eventually, the fire completely destroyed the Cygans’ house, collapsing the roof into the basement, but the Wahls’ home was spared.

Her husband, Bob Wahl, was outside when the couple was brought out. He said it was hard to watch. “They were wonderful people,” he said.

The Cygans had attended the wedding of their grandson the night before, Bloemker said. All was well when family members brought them back home after the wedding, he said.

Bloemker said the Illinois State Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire. He said the firefighters did not hear smoke alarms going off, but they might have already been destroyed by the fire. When the couple was found inside the house, he said, it was clear they had been trying to get out.

As of Monday morning, no additional information was available about the cause of the fire. Bloemker said they had been able to determine that it started in the basement, but thus far the cause is still undetermined.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald