Dupo family thankful after fire

Pictured is the scene of last Tuesday’s house fire in Dupo.

A fire in Dupo last Tuesday left a young family suffering a deep loss through Christmas, though the community was more than willing to extend support.

The Dupo Fire Department responded to a page at 7:03 p.m. Dec. 20 for a fire at 416 Audrey Drive.

Dupo Fire Chief Kelly Schaffer described the scene as he and other first responders arrived to the single-story residence. He noted heavy smoke and fire coming specifically from the bedrooms.

Schaffer said those rooms suffered severe fire damage, with the flames burning through the roof while the rest of the house suffered extensive smoke damage.

The family was out of the house during the time of the fire, with father Jesse Freeman out to coach basketball practice with the kids and mother Cayla Freeman working.

The cause of the fire is unknown, though Freeman said he was told the fire likely started in the house’s insulated attic space shortly before he left the house.

Freeman said he was notified about the fire thanks to the mother of one of his son’s friends.

Left without a house just before Christmas, Freeman said the family was graciously welcomed into the home of relatives Kevin and Mariann Mitchell, who insisted the family stay with them while they recover.

Freeman spoke highly of the Mitchells and their generosity, noting the difficulty of suddenly having two families and 10 people in a single house – though he added that being with family has been very welcome.

Freeman further commented on the outpouring of support not only from family but from the Dupo community and beyond.

The firefighters who responded to the incident, he said, had to rush out to another call, but several of them came back to express and make sure the family was all right.

There was similarly a significant number of donations and other means of support from those in the community in the last week, with plenty of it coming from the families of kids whom Freeman has coached.

Cayla, who bartends in Belleville, saw a similar amount of support from her work which led to even more donations and assistance from outside Dupo.

Freeman extended his thanks to the community as a whole, with the Dupo Lion’s Club and Dupo Storage being just a few of the groups he was able to name.

“There isn’t words to describe it, how they rallied together,” Freeman said. “It’s amazing to be a part of the community, for sure.”

Freeman also spoke to the emotional maturity of his kids – Stella, Layken and Rylen – who he said have been handling the situation remarkably well.

Stella, who is 4 years old and greatly enjoys dress-up, has received a great deal of support from her older brothers.

Freeman also commented on Layken, who is very active in sports and with friends but has been handling the change in environment very well.

The biggest focus for the family, according to Freeman, was making sure the kids feel some sense of normalcy,

“There’s a whole lot of good stuff to see, but we have to look past the bad stuff to recognize it,” Freeman said.

Freeman placed emphasis on the gratitude he and his family feel for the community outreach they’ve received in the last few days.

Even as he spoke about plans for the future, he noted the sense of community they’ve found in Dupo is a key reason for why they hope to stay and rebuild following the fire.

“It’d be hard to kind of move from a town that is jumping to support you that quick and then just go move to another place,” Freeman said.

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Andrew Unverferth

HTC web