On Friday, August 9, Van Fab, Inc., owned by the VanVoorst family, and the post office in Union Hill, were destroyed by fire. Corey Eich, Pilot Township Fire Protection District Assistant Fire Chief, incident commander for the blaze, describes the events of the day.
Eich states, “The call came at 1:15 pm for a confirmed structure fire on Friday. An immediate box alarm became a 3rd alarm, then a 5th alarm, which includes every department within Kankakee County. Then outside of Kankakee county, we also added Iroquois and Ford Counties’ tankers, and Division 19, which includes as far north as Orland Park. Then we called Grundy County Division 15 to cover other Kankakee county departments while they were at the fire.”
He continues, “There were also four ambulances, for a total of 35 fire departments and three ambulance services. The area departments were all volunteer except Kankakee, Bradley, Bourbonnais, and Limestone, and the departments farther north.”
To compound the difficulty of putting out such a large fire, Union Hill has no city water and no hydrants. Everyone in town uses well water. Therefore, to fight the fire, water was taken from a Union Hill pond, Buckingham and Bonfield dry hydrants, as well as water from the Village of Herscher. In Herscher, trucks were being filled at the fire station as well as the gas plant.
As tankers came in with the water, they emptied into portable tanks. Then pumpers supplied water from the tanks to fight the fire. This scenario was repeated over and over for several hours as the fire completely engulfed the structure.
At 11 pm, as the fire subsided, Eich started releasing some of the units. All units were released at 2 AM. There were no injuries resulting from the blaze, but a few firefighters were treated at the scene for heat exhaustion.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Eich states, “Property can be replaced. But, it’s still a traumatic loss to them and the 30 employees who are out of work. In addition, there was some damage to five other properties.”
Eich continues, “I would like to thank the other departments for their help and local people who helped out including Herscher Restaurant, and Casey’s for supplying pizzas, local people supplying water, and the Red Cross canteen for drinks and snacks.”
He concludes, “Thanks to everyone for all of their acts of kindness.”