UPDATE: Eight Belvidere firefighters honored for lifesaving actions

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Updated May 8, 2018, 6:31 p.m.

UPDATE: SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WIFR) - Efforts to save eight people from a Belvidere apartment fire last year earns eight firefighters awards including three recipients of the state's Medal of Valor.

Lieutenant Shawn Schadle and firefighters Aaron Pihl and Jeff Vaughan each are honored in Springfield with the Medal of Valor which is awarded to firefighters for an act of heroism and bravery.

The three along with five others who received the Firefighter Excellence Award helped to pull people from a fire in the 800 block of W. Jackson Street.

Schadle says they had heard reports of people jumping from the building and his crew rushed in to help.

"Still very traumatic just to go through a situation like that we train for it all the time its what we practice thankfully we can fall back on that somehow with the help of God and a little luck we were able to perform efficiently that night," said Schadle.

36-year-old Melissa Darling-Krachunas was pulled from the fire but did not survive. Schadle says the other eight who were rescued have all made a full recovery.

He adds a few of the survivors have come back to meet the firefighters who helped save them.


Updated May 7, 2018, 11:40 a.m.

UPDATE: BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) - Several Belvidere firefighters will be honored for their lifesaving actions during a March 2017 fire.

The firefighters will be honored Tuesday during a ceremony in Springfield.

Crews rescued eight people from a fire that killed 36-year-old Melissa Darling-Krachunas on March 10, 2017, in the 800 block of W. Jackson Street.

Firefighters Aaron Pihl and Jeff Vaughan, along with Lt. Shawn Schadle, will receive the Medal of Valor during the Illinois State Firefighter Medal of Valor Ceremony.

Firefighters Mark Beck, Jim Kriebs, Jason Swanson, Nic Thornton and Captain Mark Zumbragel will receive the Firefighter Excellence Award.


Updated: March 13, 2017, 12:30 p.m.

BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) -- The Boone County Coroner's Office reveals the results of an autopsy for 36-year-old Melissa Darling-Krachunas. The coroner says the preliminary cause of death is from smoke inhalation.

The death remains under investigation by the Boone County Coroner's Office, the Belvidere police and the Illinois State Police.


Posted: March 12, 2017 9:30PM

BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) -- Melissa Darling, who was killed in a Belvidere apartment fire, is described by her family and friends as someone you could count on to be there for you through thick and thin, a woman who knew only how to love.

"It just feels like a bad dream, feels like I'm going to wake-up and everything's going to be okay," said Theresa Stanfield, Darling's best friend. "But I know it's not."

Standfield is still in shock Friday night's apartment fire.

"She was a character," explained Stanfield. "Always funny and telling jokes. She was a very open and honest person, and I know even in this situation she's looking down telling us not to cry and just that she's okay, and just to move on with our lives and be strong and be there for each other, because that's the type of person she was."

Stanfield says darling died putting herself in danger to save her pets.

"They were like her kids," explained Stanfield.

Darling's daughter Katreena says her mom was her rock.

"My mom, for a long time she was my superhero," explained Katreena. "She was my best friend, and God took her way too early."

Katreena is the oldest of Darling's four kids. The other three are 13, 12, and 9-years-old. Stanfield says Darling was loved by so many people and they will always have each others back through this trying time.

"No matter what we're all going to be okay," said Stanfield. "We're all going to make it through this because we're strong, and we're a very close-knit. Her family her friends, they're all very, very close."

Two GoFundMe campaigns have been set up for Darling. One campaign is to help her family with the funeral expenses. A second campaign created is to help raise money for her three young children.


Updated: March 11, 2017, 8:44pm

BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) -- Friday night’s fatal apartment fire in Belvidere is bringing the community together to help their neighbors.

Matt Winkler is picking up the pieces after an apartment fire destroyed everything he owned.

"We tried to go out the door to the hallway," said Winkler. "And once we opened the door to the hallway, the smoke just came rolling in."

Winkler knew he, his wife and their roommate had to escape from their top floor apartment quickly.

"I looked out the window and said we have to jump," explained Winkler.

People jumping from windows for their lives is one of the many sights people are calling horrifying.

"I saw one lady sitting on the ground," said Rachel Garcia through tears. "She was rocking herself and crying. It was devastating. I just feel bad for everybody here."

After escaping Winkler and his wife found someone who needed their help while everything they owned burned in the background.

"The kid was covered in smoke and ash, so she gave her coat to the kid I took mine off and gave it to her," explained Winkler. "So we sat and waited with the kid for a while, he couldn't even talk he was wheezing really bad. He inhaled a lot of smoke for a 3-year-old."

Many neighbors brought blankets to help keep others warm, even a local McDonald's opened their doors to feed the firefighters and those displaced for free.

"We put it on our Facebook page that we would start taking donations at noon, they started coming in at 10:30," explained Michelle Dixon, President of the Women's Auxiliary for Boone County Fire, motioning to the thousands of items donated. "This is the community we live in, they're very supportive of us."

Now, residents are returning to their homes, including one woman who is being reunited with one of her cats that survived the blaze.

Winkler says through the entire ordeal the only thing his mind was on was the people he loves.

"I was just worried about my roommate and my wife," explained Winkler. "I wanted to make sure they were okay and they were out of harm's way."

Belvidere Fire Department District Two is taking donations for the victims of the fire. They tell me they will be putting out a list of what they still need on their Facebook and opening up for donations tomorrow.


Updated: March 11, 2017 7:20am

BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) -- Belvidere Police say witnesses saw people jumping from an apartment building to escape the heavy smoke coming from the complex.

The Boone County Coroner says the woman killed was in her 30's, she has not yet been identified.

It took nearly three hours for the 18 separate fire departments on the scene to put out the fire.

Belvidere police and fire crews had to rescue several people from the building, multiple were also given CPR. 23 News is told 14 people were taken to the hospital. Belvidere police say some were suffering from smoke inhalation. There is no word yet on the condition of those injured.

The American Red Cross along with people from the community are assisting the people who lived in the apartment building with a place to stay as well as food and clothes.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.


BELVIDERE, Ill. (WIFR) -- One woman is killed after a massive fire breaks out in a Belvidere apartment building.

Belvidere Police Chief Jan Noble confirms to 23 News that one adult female has died from the fire that broke out at the Jackson Street Apartment Complex in the 800 block of W. Jackson Street.

23 News is also told 24 people were injured in the fire, 14 of them were taken to the hospital. Details have not been given on their condition.

Noble says the fire has not been contained, and the structure is still too hot for fire crews to go inside to check if there are any other victims.

The fire started around 9:45 p.m. Crews from surrounding departments were called to help fight the flames.

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