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Local

St. Patrick's Day fundraiser to help DeKalb family who lost everything in house fire

DeKALB – Javier Gonzalez was watching TV at his home at 2186 Eve’s Circle West in DeKalb about 8:30 p.m. Feb. 20 when he smelled something like burning plastic coming from his kitchen.

Calling out to his wife, Maria, and their adult son, who was getting ready to leave for work, Javier rushed to see what was causing the smell. Flames were shooting out of their dishwasher and the wall next to it. Javier immediately went to grab water from the kitchen sink, but the plastic pipes were already starting to melt and water wouldn’t come out. Javier called 911 and left the house with his family.

The DeKalb Fire Department responded and found smoke showing from an open garage door of the wood-frame townhouse. The Cortland, Genoa-Kingston, Malta, Maple Park, Shabbona and Sycamore fire departments assisted in putting out the fire.

A DeKalb firefighter was taken to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital for smoke inhalation and was released the same night, and Maria Gonzalez was treated at the scene.

DeKalb Fire Chief Jeff McMaster said the fire caused $72,000 in damage to the property and the family’s belongings.

“Our house was completely damaged, and we lost everything,” Javier Gonzalez said. “We lost all our clothes, all our furniture, our electronics and TVs. We had just bought a new refrigerator two weeks before [this happened].”

Gonzalez said he believes the fire started in the dishwasher, which they had never used in the four years of renting the house.

The house is being renovated with new walls, flooring and carpeting. During the renovation process, the Gonzalez family has moved into a nearby apartment with their oldest son and his family.

“I don’t think that we’ll go back [to the house], there’s just too many memories,” Gonzalez said. “It’s too scary. I still have nightmares. You know, I don’t care about losing the stuff inside, as long as I have my family and we’re safe together.”

Javier and Maria Gonzalez have worked in the kitchen at PJ’s Courthouse Tavern, 202 W. State St. in Sycamore, for 22 years. When they told John Schwartz, who co-owns the restaurant with his brother Paul, about the fire the next day, the restaurant owners and staff knew they wanted to do something to help.

The fundraiser will feature live music, drawings, homemade corned beef and cabbage, and Irish drink specials, including green beer, Guinness and Jameson. One of the evening’s drawings includes a $500 gift certificate to Great Wolf Lodge.

Sue Schwartz, John’s wife, said hosting the fundraiser is a way to bring the community together to help. Donations also can be made at the restaurant through St. Patrick’s Day.

“Javier and Maria are loving, caring people, always willing to help,” she said.

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