Stephenson County fire departments raise funds for home explosion survivors

A couple was inside their home when it exploded for an unknown reason, and their community stepped in to help.
Photo of the fund raiser
Photo of the fund raiser(wifr)
Published: Sep. 17, 2022 at 10:30 PM CDT
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CEDARVILLE, Ill. (WIFR) - A house explosion on Tuesday leaves a couple in serious condition, and Freeport and Cedarville’s Fire Departments teamed up to raise money to hopefully cover all damages.

Cedarville Fire Department’s annual “Feather Party” was just going to be a steak night. This event is a yearly occurrence for them, but after one of their own was caught in a home explosion, they decided to dedicate it to the couple.

“We decided instead of having a fundraiser for equipment for ourselves that we would have a fundraiser for the family,” said Doug Broge, Cedarville Fire Department’s captain.

A house explosion sent shock waves through not only the Freeport rural fire department but the Cedarville Fire Department as well. After learning someone close to their hearts was inside the destroyed home.

“They lost everything. Their house was totally destroyed so it’s going to take a lot for them to get back on their feet,” said Broge.

Now both fire departments have teamed up to make Cedarville’s annual “Feather Party” all about the survivors. Al Bawinkel was a part of the Freeport Rural Fire Department and his son, Jim Bawinkel, is a member of the Cedarville Fire Department. Officials say this is why dedicating the fundraiser to the family is so important to them.

“In the fire department business, we’re all family,” said Norm Folgate, the Freeport Fire Department trustee.

Al and Bonnie Bawinkel were in the home when the blast rippled through, completely destroying everything in it’s path. A neighbor and passerby witnessed the explosion and dashed into the home to save the couple before it was too late. Officials say the couple was airlifted by helicopter to a hospital in Rockford.

“Doug and I have been on for forty years now so we see a lot of things and we just want to help,” said Folgate.

According to RedCross, some fire safety habits are to turn off portable heaters when leaving any space, use flashlights instead of candles when the power goes out and install smoke alarms to help detect early signs of a fire.

The couple is still in critical condition and has a GoFundMe set up to help raise funds for medical bills and damages. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

This is a developing story. 23 WIFR News will provide updates as they become available.