“Oh, I think we're all in a state of shock," proclaims Joanne Korn, who lives next door to where the fire happened.
Korn is still trying to take it all in. Her neighbor’s basement went up in flames and all that’s left of it are large heaps of charred debris. Korn lives next door. In fact, she and the Jenks have lived side by side since the early 60s. She was the person they turned to while the fire was still burning. Thinking quickly on her feet, she dialed 911 for help.
"The alarm woke her [Mrs. Jenks]. Her husband was in the living room area, and she woke him, and they came out immediately. He tried to go back in to get the son and just couldn't," Korn adds.
Mr. and Mrs. Jenks made it out of the house safely. Their 53 year old son, Thomas A. Jenks, did not. He was in the basement where the fire started and was contained.
"He was trying to get out from where they presumed he would have been sleeping, and where they found him, he was on his way to an exit. It sounds like the smoke detectors, especially on the main floor in the house, alerted the two that got out. It's unclear, and we haven't found one in the basement yet. It's unclear if there was one down there," states Lt. Jeremy Flanagan of the Beloit Fire Department.
The cause of the fire is unknown.
Although, Lt. Flanagan says there were numerous flammable items inside the home that fueled it, “Plastics and synthetic materials a plenty in there, and those fumes alone would have been enough to make it very difficult to survive. Nothing looks suspicious, but, you know, we'll say accidental. One of the things that is important is to not overuse extension cords, not that that was the cause, but we're finding a lot of cords, and that makes it possible that could be a contributing factor to it."
"It's going to take us a while to…I mean...Tom was here all the time so...I really can't talk about it anymore," Korn says tearfully.
While the basement of the home is significantly burned, the rest of the house only has smoke damage. So, Lt. Flanagan believes it will be possible for the Jenks to return to their home, if they should choose to do so.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Officials say three people have died in fires in Beloit this year alone.