By Kathryn Menue


On Tuesday, Aug. 30, the Belvidere Fire Department remained busy most of the night by responding to two fires in town.

The fire department received a call concerning a garage fire at 7:43 p.m.

The Belvidere Fire Department arrived on scene at 7:48 p.m. Upon arrival at 1713 Union Ave. in Belvidere, “the first arriving unit reported visible flames in the garage,” Belvidere Fire Chief Al Hyser said.

Belvidere Ladder 150, Belvidere Engine 102, and Boone County Engine 1 responded to the scene and extinguished the fire quickly.

The person who reported the fire suffered minor burns on his hand, but no firefighters were injured.

The fire is believed to have caused about $30,000 worth of damage due to destruction reaching through the roof of the structure and extensive water damage.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

While the fire department began investigating the scene, they received a call at 8:40 p.m. about another fire at 137 S. State St. in Belvidere.

After collecting their equipment from the Union Avenue scene, the firefighters arrived to the second fire of the night at 8:45 p.m.

Based on the initial call, the fire was believed to have started in the basement with an unknown amount of people inside the building.

“Upon arrival, heavy smoke was reported in the street coming from the front and rear of the building,” Chief Hyser said.

At this point, the Belvidere Fire Department released a MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) call to area responders for assistance.

Several surrounding area agencies responded to the scene, including: Marengo, Rockford, South Beloit, Harvard, Genoa-Kingston, Capron Rescue, Boone County Districts 2 and 3, EMA, Lifeline Ambulance, Rockton, and Cherry Valley.

“The main body of fire was extinguished in 20 minutes of first units on scene.” Chief Hyser said. “Firefighters were on scene for a little over three hours.”

After extinguishing the flames, firefighters remained on scene to complete an overhaul of the building, since the building is well over 100 years old and contained quite a few void spaces where smoldering fires could still linger.

After reviewing the scene, the fire appeared to have started in the garage edition on the back of the structure. Chief Hyser reported that the fire remained “relatively confined to the back of the building” where the fire began.

Luckily, all occupants exited the building safely and without injury. No firefighters were injured on scene either.

However, seven people are displaced from the residence and are working with the Red Cross and Salvation Army to find a temporary place to stay.

The Reyes family has owned the property since 1974. It was the first property the family bought after emigrating from Mexico, and the family was devastated by the tragedy.

“We’ve had lots of good memories here. A lot of family members have called this place home,” David Reyes, son of building owner Lorenzo Reyes, said. “This is a family tragedy. No one died – thank God – but we’re going to put pieces back together and rebuild.”

On Wednesday, Aug. 31, it was still undetermined how extensive the damages were to the property, especially since the same structure suffered a fire on Sunday, March 6 in the second story apartment due to a dryer mishap with oily rags.

The Reyes family reported that they had experts survey the scene, who reported the building was structurally sound.

Chief Hyser said that the fire remains “under investigation, but doesn’t appear to be suspicious at this time.”

The Reyes family was thankful for the efforts of the area responders.

“We want to thank the Belvidere Fire Department and all other emergency responders who came and did a superb job,” David Reyes said. “We love this community. It’s our home, and we’re going to rebuild. We’d like to thank all the community in advance for their prayers and thoughts.”

The family added that someday, when the structure is completely safe again, they would like to invite the community to celebrate saving the historical structure.

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