Funeral service held for fallen Christopher firefighter
CHRISTOPHER, IL (KFVS) - A firefighter died after a structure fire in Christopher, Illinois on Sunday, May 5.
Gilbert Funeral Home in Christopher handled the arrangements. According to the funeral director, Vanfossan attended Christopher High School.
Funeral services was held on Friday, May 10 at 11 a.m. at the Christopher High School Gymnasium. Visitation was on Thursday, May 9 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the high school gym.
He will be buried at St. Andrews Catholic Cemetery in Christopher.
An escort took Kody Vanfossan back to Christopher on Tuesday afternoon, May 7.
U.S. and State flags are ordered to be at half-staff from sunrise on Wednesday, May 8 to sunset on Friday, May 10. The order came from Gov. JB Pritzker to the Dept. of Central Management Services.
The procession traveled down Highway 37 through Johnston City and Herrin, then on Highway 148 to Christopher.
“He was always willing to learn and always being safe. He cared about other people. Cared about his baby boy and his family,” said Ret. Firefighter John Banks who came out to pay tribute.
Vanfossan had been with the fire department for three years.
His grandfather is actually the Mayor of Christopher as well, Gary Bartelotti. He said Vanfossan always wanted to be a firefighter.
“Since Kody was five years old,” he said, “he had a full fireman’s suit, and a bag, and a hat. One day we were up here and we walked over to the fire station and chief Lutz was there, and he said, ‘hey, if you need backup you just call me,’”
Bartelotti knew some of the details of the fire. Apparently, Vanfossan was checking the rooms above the furniture store where the fire broke out on Market street. He was with his father, who is also a firefighter, and one other crew member.
“They went upstairs to make sure that there was no one up there at the time,” he said.
While they were upstairs, Bartelotti said their oxygen tanks started beeping, prompting them to leave. The first firefighter got out okay. Vanfossan’s father was next, but apparently when he went down the stairs, the steps collapsed below his feet.
“They got him out,” he said, “He crawled out, they tried to go back in after Kody, but they couldn’t get to him in time.”
Bartelotti and his family remain heartbroken, but believe Kody died doing what he loved.
“As a mayor, but as a grandfather, it’s sad,” he said, “and there’s no words to describe the way I feel, but I’m proud of him.”
This is the first death of a firefighter in recent memory.
Officials released the following statement following the death:
On behalf of Southern Illinois Fire Incidents I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family,friends and members of the Christopher Fire Department and all who were operating on the fire ground in Christopher this morning as they lost a firefighter while battling a 5 alarm fire. Prayers for everyone involved in the upcoming days.
Illinois State Representative Dave Severin honored the life of Vanfossan on the House floor Wednesday, May 9.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost also honored Vanfossan.
According to Christopher Police, at 3:34 a.m. their crew received a call about a two-story building on fire at 118 West Market Street.
Firefighters were attacking the fire from the inside and outside of the building.
The fire left significant damage to the building.
The Illinois State Fire Marshal and Christopher police are investigating.
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