Early morning fire claims 5 members of Illinois family
Jan. 14, 2016
ROCK FALLS, Ill. (AP) — Five members of a northern Illinois family were killed Wednesday when an early morning fire swept through their home, officials said.
Firefighters responding to a blaze in Rock Falls found a husband and wife and three of their children dead on the second floor of the home, said Whiteside County Coroner Joe McDonald. The victims were identified as Patrick Hopkins, 61; his wife, Mary Hopkins, 49; and their children, 24-year-old Maggie, 16-year-old Donovan and 13-year-old Katie Jo. Patrick and Mary Hopkins also had two other adult children who were not at the home at the time of the fire, officials said.
"They were a good, loving family that cared very much for each other," said Monsignor Thomas Dzielak of St. Andrew Catholic Church in Rock Falls. "The parents were very good people, and the children were all well-liked at school."
Autopsies are pending, but McDonald says the victims likely died of smoke inhalation.
The fire, which also killed three dogs, is believed to have started in the living room, fire officials said.
Rock Falls Deputy Fire Chief Bill Milby said in a statement that members of his department and the neighboring Sterling Fire Department found fire flaring from first floor windows and smoke billowing from the entire building. Rock Falls is about 110 miles west of Chicago.
After emergency personnel arrived on the scene, they informed there was a possibility five people were still in the house, Milby said. Dispatchers also advised they had received a 911 hang-up call from someone inside the house.
Crews made several attempts to reach the second floor bedrooms, but the fire blocked the effort, Milby said.
"This one just had such a headway on us," Milby told the Daily Gazette in Sterling. He added that he had to pull tired firefighters off the blaze because they didn't want to give up. "I'm very proud of the guys for the effort they made."
It took firefighters nearly a half-hour to bring the blaze under control, allowing a search of the second floor. All five victims were dead when they were found in their bedrooms, Milby said.
The Illinois State Fire Marshal, State Police, and the county coroner's office are assisting the Rock Falls Fire Department in investigating the cause of the fire, Milby said.