Tragedy on Winnebago Street as 2-year-old dies in deadly house fire

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A child’s life was cut short by an early morning house fire in Rockford that has left a family devastated.

The fire started just before 2 a.m. on Monday near downtown on North Winnebago Street. 

The fire was concentrated on the second floor of the building, where baby Matthew was sleeping, ultimately succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning.

His grandmother is grief stricken by the loss of her only grandson, Matthew Raines, who was going to turn two years old next month.

“It hurts so bad. I miss that man so much,” Shunda Thomas said Monday. “Someone called me and told me…there was a fire going on, and I ran up here. And [then] I seen them taking my grand baby out.”

The windows and door of the house are now boarded up. Two neighborhood children set up a memorial for Matthew: an orange teddy bear, and angel statue, and a candle.

Tom Smith lives next door. He said the family knocked on his door in a panic.

“They says, ‘could you call, please call 9-1-1, because the house is on fire,'” Smith said. “Then I heard the lady that lived there. She said, ‘my baby’s up there, my baby’s up there.'”

Thomas said, “The mom ran in the house so many times. I was trying to run in the house.”

It took Rockford firefighters only three minutes to respond. They immediately began searching for Matthew.

“There was a heavy amount of fire, a lot of smoke, and [it] made the situation very, very difficult,” Matthew Knott, Division Chief for the Rockford Fire Department, said.

Thomas said, “Only one room. It’s crazy. One room on fire, where he was at.”

“I finally seen them bring the baby out and everybody was crying, you know,” Smith recalls. “We didn’t know the condition of the baby or anything.”

First responders rushed Matthew to the hospital, but it was too late.

“We were later notified that the child succumbed to his injuries from the fire and the child did pass away,” said Fire Chief Derek Bergsten.

Devastated, and still clutching a pair of Matthew’s sunglasses, Thomas looked at the aftermath of the fire, stricken with grief.

“I just want to touch him,” she said. “I just want to kiss him and hold him and touch him. I ain’t never gonna do that. I ain’t never gonna have that chance.”

There were four family members in the house, but all were able to make it out without any injuries. The family is being cared for by the Red Cross. 

The Rockford Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the fire.

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