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Blaze leaves Genoa home uninhabitable

GENOA – Jay and Carol Hencken were planning to give the house they bought at 780 Watson Drive to their daughter Deanna as a wedding present in November.

But those plans are on indefinite hold after a fire destroyed their Genoa home early Sunday evening. Although the structure was standing, Genoa-Kingston Fire Chief Bruce Kozlowski said the house was uninhabitable.

The Genoa-Kingston Fire Department received the first call at 4:08 p.m. Nine units from the department responded, in addition to units from Sycamore, Hampshire, Kirkland, Huntley, DeKalb and Marengo, Kozlowski said.

He said the cause of the fire is under investigation, but said that it might have been caused by the home’s electrical system because the fire started in the corner of the house. Kozlowski said the state fire marshal would be on site today, but the fire did not seem suspicious.

Deanna Hencken lived at the house with her fiancé Jason Bennefield and their children. None of them were inside the house when the fire began.

Only the family’s dogs – Kona, a German shepherd, and Thor, a pit bull – were inside the house. Firefighters saved both dogs, but Thor was lethargic because of smoke inhalation, Genoa-Kingston Fire Captain Megan Bacon said.

Thor was in a crate in the basement when the fire began. Kozlowski said the fire had spread to the basement. Bacon estimated that Thor had spent at least 20 minutes inside the house before being rescued by firefighters.

“If he was down there for a few minutes more, he probably would not have made it,” Bacon said.

Bacon and Genoa-Kingston paramedic Heather Swanson used an oxygen mask designed for pets on Thor. Swanson said it took 10 to 15 minutes, and one-and-a-half tanks of oxygen, before Thor lifted his head.

“He’s still walking sideways and using accessory muscles to breathe,” Swanson said.

Jay Hencken said Thor was being taken to an emergency veterinarian in Rockford.

Carol Hencken detailed all of the improvements they had made to the house since buying it in July, including new windows, doors, heating and air conditioning systems.

“And guess what? It burned,” Carol Hencken said. “They’re getting married Nov. 17, and everything was in the house except for the wedding dress, so this is quite devastating to the family.”

Jay Hencken noted that all of the damage can be repaired, though. In the meantime, the Henckens said their daughter’s family will live at her house until they decide what to do.

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