Neighbors React To Firefighter Killed in House Fire

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One person is dead after a fire engulfs a Leaf River home early Friday morning.

Bright orange flames burst out of all sides of the home in the 200 block of W. 2nd Street. One neighbor captured footage of the fire after waking up to see the massive blaze just across the street from her home.

“It was inferno, oh my gosh,” said neighbor Julie Oltmanns. “The whole sky was lit up bright orange.”

“I’ve seen bad fires but the speed that this fire went up was… abnormal,” said Leaf River Fire Protection District Fire Chief Steve Shelton.

Two of the people living in the home were rushed to a Rockford hospital with serious injuries. One resident, 19-year-old Gregory Wood, didn’t make it out. Wood was one of the volunteer firefighters for the small town. Shelton lives right across the street and was one of the first to respond to the fatal fire. He says Wood’s death is gut-wrenching. “He was very energetic, willing to learn and he was very dedicated to his community.”

Shelton adds their station personnel have been meeting with counselors to help them through the loss of one of their own. “There’s an empty void there and I don’t know how else to put it. It’s going to take some time and miss seeing his face at the station.”

The remaining shell of the Second Street house is a constant reminder of the community’s loss.

“I feel so bad that somebody passed away in there,” said Oltmanns. “I’m a nurse and I deal with that all the time and it’s hard.”

“It’s tough. It’s going to be tough walking out the front door every morning,” said Shelton.

The Illinois State Police Crime Scene Unit and the Illinois State Fire Marshall are investigating. However, authorities wouldn’t say if they believe the cause is suspicious.

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