A house on the 1200 block of Spring Street in Chester was destroyed by fire overnight Sept. 17-18, but since no one was home at the time there were no injuries.
The Chester Fire Department, aided by Ellis Grove and Steeleville, fought the blaze for more than five hours, from 11:10 p.m. on Thursday to 4:30 a.m. on Friday.
According to Lt. Charles Bargman, when Chester firefighters arrived at 11:10 p.m., the house was ablaze at all levels. It took all three departments to get the fire out.
"It took us several hours to get the fire under control," Bargman said. "We had to make vertical cuts in the roof to allow the smoke and heat to escape."
The house, he said, appeared to be a total loss. The extreme heat and heavy smoke ruined everything inside the home, he added.
Bargman said firefighters at the home were unable to determine how the fire started. The state fire marshal was contacted and has been investigating.
Dakota Baranowski has been living in the house. On Friday, she and her dad, Gale Graul of Ava, were sifting through the contents of the ruined house, looking in vain for anything that wasn't destroyed.
"It was a total loss," Baranowski said. "There is really nothing that can be salvaged except a load of wash that I had left in the washing machine. Otherwise, everything is lost."
Baranowski was grateful she was not in the house when it caught fire. She is going through a divorce and at present staying with her father in Ava.
She has a child at Chester Grade School, and said the school immediately reached out to them to offer assistance.
"I am very thankful for people at school and others in the community that have already offered to help in our time of need," Baranowski said. "Right now I am beside myself and am trying to figure out what to do next!"